The Turkish Police Command have arrested a 16-year-old high school student for “insulting” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan by accusing him and his ruling party of corruption, sparking angry criticism on Christmas day from the opposition.
The boy, identified by his initials M.E.A., was believed to be a member of a leftist organisation, the Hurriyet newspaper reported.
He delivered a speech on Wednesday in the central Anatolian city of Konya, a bastion of Erdogan’s Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP), in memory of a young secular teacher killed by Islamists in 1930, according to the newspaper.
The boy, who was arrested by police at school, is now facing up to four years in prison if convicted on the charge.
It was the latest controversial arrest in Turkey in recent weeks. Recent police raids on media outlets affiliated with Erdogan’s top foe, the US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, sparked an angry exchange with the European Union, which said the arrests undermined media freedom.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu supported the court’s decision on the juvenile’s arrest.
“Everyone must respect the office of president whoever he is,” Davutoglu said, quoted in Turkish media.
In his testimony to prosecutors, the boy denied links with any political party and said that the local governor’s office granted permission for the commemoration ceremony organised through social media.
“I’ve made the statement in question. I have no intent to insult,” he reportedly said.