‘Turk­ish MP’s as­sis­tant de­faced Mal­tese art­work which de­picted Prophet Muham­mad’ - CoE source

Malta Independent - - FRONT PAGE - Neil Camil­leri

A source within the Coun­cil of Europe has con­firmed that an in­stal­la­tion by a Mal­tese artist which in­cluded an edited im­age of the Prophet Muham­mad was de­faced by a Turk­ish MP’s as­sis­tant. The head of the Turk­ish del­e­ga­tion at the Coun­cil of Europe has apol­o­gised for the in­ci­dent.

The Malta In­de­pen­dent re­vealed ex­clu­sively yes­ter­day how part of the 1,000 photo can­vas was lit­er­ally sliced off. Artist Nor­bert Fran­cis At­tard said he could not be­lieve that this act of cen­sor­ship had taken place at the Coun­cil of Europe in Stras­bourg, more so when his art­work was based on the con­cept of hu­man rights, in­clud­ing free­dom of ex­pres­sion.

He ex­plained that the ‘of­fend­ing’ piece was an edited ver­sion of the in­fa­mous Dan­ish Muham­mad car­toon, which had led to protests and vi­o­lent ri­ots in sev­eral coun­tries.

“I ob­vi­ously knew the his­tory be­hind it so what I did was I cov­ered the prophet’s face with a ban­ner with the word ‘cen­sored’ writ­ten over it. I did this so that it would not of­fend any­one.”

A source at the CoE told The Malta In­de­pen­dent yes­ter­day that the ex­hi­bi­tion “was dam­aged by a par­lia­men­tary as­sis­tant of a Turk­ish mem­ber of the Assem­bly. It is still in place.”

The source said that the Pres­i­dent of the Assem­bly held a meet­ing on Thurs­day with the Chair­per­son of the Turk­ish Par­lia­men­tary del­e­ga­tion.

“The lat­ter apol­o­gised for this in­ci­dent. The Mal­tese artist will be in­vited to Stras­bourg to close this re­gret­table in­ci­dent.”

When con­tacted, Turk­ish Am­bas­sador to Malta Reha Ke­skin­tepe said he had “read our re­port with sad­ness” but told us he had no in­for­ma­tion on the mat­ter. “We have no in­for­ma­tion on the ex­hi­bi­tion, let alone this in­ci­dent you men­tion in the ar­ti­cle.”

Nor­bert Fran­cis At­tard told this pa­per yes­ter­day said he did not know who the per­pe­tra­tor was but in­sisted that the CoE should pub­licly con­demn the act.

The For­eign Af­fairs Min­istry has mean­while given its own ac­count on the in­ci­dent.

“The Min­istry for For­eign Af­fairs was in­formed by the Per­ma­nent Rep­re­sen­ta­tion of Malta to the Coun­cil of Europe in Stras­bourg that an in­ci­dent took place at the Lobby of the Par­lia­men­tary Assem­bly con­cern­ing an ex­hi­bi­tion en­ti­tled “Ex­ile Se­ries: The Road Note Taken” by Mal­tese artist Nor­bert Fran­cis At­tard.

“The ex­hi­bi­tion was in­au­gu­rated on Mon­day 10th Oc­to­ber to mark the 50th an­niver­sary of Malta’s sign­ing of the Euro­pean Con­ven­tion on Hu­man Rights in the pres­ence of the Sec­re­tary Gen­eral of the Coun­cil of Europe and the Pres­i­dent of the Par­lia­men­tary Assem­bly.

“Yes­ter­day early af­ter­noon, Malta’s Per­ma­nent Rep­re­sen­ta­tive was ver­bally in­formed by Coun­cil of Europe’s Head of Pro­to­col, that a part of the ex­hibit on show was torn out.

“This in­ci­dent was sub­se­quently con­firmed by the Di­rec­tor of Gen­eral Ser­vices of the Par­lia­men­tary Assem­bly who also in­formed the Per­ma­nent Rep­re­sen­ta­tive that an in­ter­nal re­port had been drawn up and sent to his su­pe­ri­ors.

“The Per­ma­nent Rep­re­sen­ta­tion in­formed both the Min­istry for For­eign Af­fairs and artist Nor­bert Fran­cis At­tard about the oc­cur­rence. A meet­ing was called with the Sec­re­tary Gen­eral of the Par­lia­men­tary Assem­bly to seek fur­ther clar­i­fi­ca­tions with a re­quest for a full re­port in writing on the mat­ter to be sub­mit­ted to the Per­ma­nent Rep­re­sen­ta­tion of Malta to the Coun­cil of Europe.

“The Sec­re­tary Gen­eral of the Par­lia­men­tary Assem­bly met the Per­ma­nent Rep­re­sen­ta­tive and ex­pressed his un­re­served apolo­gies to Malta’s Per­ma­nent Rep­re­sen­ta­tive and artist Nor­bert At­tard for this un­for­tu­nate in­ci­dent.

“The Sec­re­tary Gen­eral of the Par­lia­men­tary Assem­bly re­gret­ted the event and made it clear that such be­hav­iour was con­sid­ered to be un­ac­cept­able. It was re­ported that a Turk­ish Rep­re­sen­ta­tive was in­volved.

“The Per­ma­nent Rep­re­sen­ta­tive was also in­formed that this evening the Pres­i­dent of the Par­lia­men­tary Assem­bly in­tended to meet the Head of the Turk­ish Par­lia­men­tary Del­e­ga­tion at­tend­ing the Oc­to­ber Part Ses­sion of the Par­lia­men­tary Assem­bly con­cern­ing the mat­ter.

“A pro­posal was made by the Sec­re­tary Gen­eral of the Par­lia­men­tary Assem­bly to the Per­ma­nent Rep­re­sen­ta­tive by way of pro­vid­ing a prac­ti­cal so­lu­tion to re­solve the mat­ter to the sat­is­fac­tion of the Mal­tese artist in ques­tion.

“Pend­ing the re­ceipt of the for­mal re­port from the Par­lia­men­tary Assem­bly, this pro­posal was duly trans­mit­ted to Mr At­tard for his con­sid­er­a­tion.”

Nor­bert Fran­cis At­tard

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