“Insulting the president” is a crime in Turkey, punishable by up to 28 months in prison—even if the offenders are 12 or 13 years old.
Such is the potential fate of two cousins, identified only by their initials by Hurriyet Daily News, who were busted in May for tearing down posters of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
One of the cousins “reportedly said the two were heading back home from the market and they wanted to remove the posters from the billboards in order to sell them to a junk dealer.” He said he did not care whose face was on the posters, but obviously the Erdogan regime does.
Prison time for the teens is contingent on the approval of the Turkish Justice Ministry, which may also invoke the “Child Protection Law.” Alas, this is not a law that protects children from draconian prison terms. Instead, it can require counselling for the child’s family, “assuring their school attendance and health conditions,” as well as imposing “settlement of children implicated in criminal activities in a children’s home after serving their time in a young offenders’ prison.”
Court hearings are scheduled to begin on December 8. The lawyer for the children plans to argue that the charges of “insulting the Turkish president” are unclear, and the kids may not even have recognized Erdogan’s face.
This case is unlikely to win the Ergodan government any points with critics alarmed by its crackdown on Kurds and other political dissidents, including opposition media. On the other hand, there are signs the crackdown is fulfilling Erdogan’s political objectives, inspiring supporters to look past Turkey’s economic problems, and wooing disaffected AKP Party voters back to the polls.