Turkish court arrests 16-year-old student for insulting President Erdoğan
KONYA – Doğan News AgencyA 16-year-old student has been arrested for insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the Central Anatolian province of Konya.
The student, identified as M.E.A., who is a member of an online group called Democrat High School Students, attended a meeting organized on Dec. 23 to commemorate Lieutenant Mustafa Fehmi Kubilay, who was killed by a pro-sharia group in 1930 in the Aegean town of Menemen. M.E.A. reportedly made a press statement in the name of the group during the ceremony, citing the corruption probe in the speech.
Police detained the student on Dec. 24 at his school and took him to the police station. Following his interrogation by a public prosecutor, M.E.A. was sent to court with the demand of his arrest.
The Konya 1st Criminal Court of Peace then decided to arrest the high school student for insulting President Erdoğan in his speech.
The student faces up to four years in prison if he is convicted on charges of insulting the president, according to the 299th article of Turkish Criminal Code.
The student reportedly said in his speech that the group did not consider Erdoğan as the president of the country, but as the leader of corruption, bribery and theft, as well as the owner of an unlicensed palace.
The student pled “not guilty” in his testimony, saying he did not intend to insult anyone.
He also said he was not a member of any political party’s youth branch, adding that the Democrat High School Students is a Facebook group.
When asked about the student's arrest, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said that everyone should respect the position of the president.
Barış İspir, the student’s lawyer, appealed the court’s decision and demanded probation instead of arrest.
The court rejected the lawyer's appeal, saying probation was insufficient on the grounds that the student could engage in disobedience.
“Our friend in question made remarks which are freely shared on Facebook, Twitter or other social media in his statement,” İspir said, adding that designating the remarks as criminal was a policy of oppression.
The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) provincial deputy head Ulaş Çalıkuşu has condemned the incident, expressing his support for the student.
“If a 16-year-old can be arrested for insulting the president, it means something is going wrong in this country,” İspir said.
CHP Konya lawmaker Atilla Kart said that judicature of the Criminal Courts of Peace were behaving according to police logic, accusing them of serving the government’s suggestions and orders.
Kart also said that the arrest of M.E.A. was not a proper decision, as there was no reason to suspect the student would flee.
This was the first time in the history of Turkish Republic that a 16-year-old - an underage boy – has been arrested for insulting, the CHP lawyer also said.