A 13-year-old boy in Turkey was swept out of class by police in an arrest his father was later informed was the result of a Facebook post in which his son allegedly insulted the nation’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The boy, described by various media as being in either seventh or eighth grade, told police that he did, indeed, write the Facebook post, though Turkish media have not identified what the boy said online. Since he is a minor, newspapers are identifying him only by his initials, U.R.E.
Today’s Zaman reports that the boy and his father were taken to the regional prosecutor’s office and later released, though authorities are demanding a psychiatric evaluation for the child. The court handling the case has stated that it is waiting for the results of U.R.E.’s psychiatric evaluation before deciding whether to pursue criminal charges on Erdogan’s behalf against the teen.
The father, also not identified by name, has told the media that he is outraged by the way the government has treated his son. Hurriyet Daily News reports that, in comments to the press, the father has called for the government to use its resources to crack down on corrupt government officials rather than children expressing themselves on social media. “I have not seen what he wrote or shared. But our prosecutors and police should be more interested in dealing with those who push our country to the edge of division, and with those who rob the country with shoeboxes,” he said, referring to a corruption case in which officials were found to have been hiding illicit money in shoeboxes. He is also accusing law enforcement of “traumatizing” his son by entering his classroom to arrest him in front of his peers.
Hurriyet notes that Erdogan has filed criminal complaints against more than 60 people for insulting him since his tenure. In December, a 16-year-old boy was released from jail after being arrested for an anti-Erdogan tweet. He is awaiting trial. 26-year-old Merve Buyuksarac, a former Miss Turkey, was also arrested in January for quoting a poem on social media that made fun of Erdogan.
Turkey’s Constitution prohibits “insults” against the president, and the nation maintains strict laws limiting speech. Turkey’s speech laws are so constricting that Erdogan himself was found guilty of breaking them this week, after calling a statue dedicated to the Armenian genocide (a contentious issue in Turkey) a “monstrosity.” Erdogan has been fined $4,000 for his comment.