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ISTANBUL — Police raided the printing plant of a Turkish newspaper producing excerpts of the special edition of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, officials and its editor told NBC News on Wednesday.
Cumhuriyet was planning to distribute a four-page insert of the issue of the magazine that this week ran a cover with a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad. However, the Turkish version of the publication did not include any images of Muhammad.
Turkey is a Muslim-majority country and many Muslims consider depictions of Muhammad to be blasphemous. However, it is not illegal to publish pictures of Muhammad in Turkey.
Police prevented trucks loaded with the paper from leaving the site in Istanbul, editor-in-chief Utku Cakirozer told NBC News. When it was clear that the controversial cover depicting Muhammad was not part of the edition, the newspaper was allowed to continue distributing them, he added. Police confirmed to NBC News that they had been dispatched to the newspaper to ensure that the edition did not contain the controversial cartoons.
The newspaper decided not to publish pictures of the prophet after a long deliberation out of respect for “religious sensitivities and freedom of belief,” the editor said on Twitter on Tuesday. According to local reports, Cumhuriyet staff received hundreds of death threats after deciding to publish the Charlie Hebdo excerpts.
Turkey is under growing pressure for its record on freedom of the press. On December 17, the Committee to Protect Journalists said the country was one of the top 10 worst jailers of journalists in the world.
Ahmet Davutoglu, the country’s prime minister, attended the high-profile Paris rally held in support of the free press and in solidarity with the victims of the Charlie Hebdo attacks that left 12 dead.
Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan has also defended the country’s record on press freedom.
"Nowhere in the world is the press freer than it is in Turkey. I’m very sure of myself when I say this," he said in a televised speech to a conference in Ankara in December. "The press is so free in Turkey that one can make insults, slander, defamation, racism and commit hate crimes that are not tolerated even in democratic countries."