Turkish teen release: His crime? Insulting the president.

Wednesday's arrest of a 16-year-old boy over a public speech caused uproar in Turkey. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is protected under Turkish law, with a maximum sentence of four years in jail for anyone convicted of defamation. 

Associated Press
A Turkish teenager, known as M.E.A. is embraced by his parents after his release from the jail in Konya, Turkey, Dec. 26, 2014. The teenager was detained by police for allegedly insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

A high school student who was jailed for allegedly insulting Turkey's president was released from custody on Friday after his arrest caused uproar in the country.

The 16-year-old boy was arrested on Wednesday, a day after he took part in a small left-wing student rally commemorating the death of a pro-secular army officer slain by Islamists 84 years ago.

The boy, who can only be identified by his initials M.E.A. because of Turkish laws that protect the identity of minors, made a speech during the rally in which he said the students didn't regard Recep Tayyip Erdogan as the president, but as the "thieving owner of the illegal palace," according to court papers seen by The Associated Press.

His words referred to a vast government corruption scandal that has implicated members of Erdogan's family, as well as a controversial 1,150-room palace in the capital, Ankara, which Erdogan inaugurated in October.

The arrest of the boy at Meram Technical and Vocational high school in Konya, central Turkey, sparked an outcry, with opposition parties denouncing it as the latest example of the government's descent toward authoritarianism and its crackdown on dissent. Dozens of lawyers volunteered to defend the teen and petitioned for his release.

The boy walked through the gates of a detention center in Konya after a court there agreed to free him from police custody on Friday. It is a crime in Turkey to insult the president and the boy could face up to four years in prison if he is charged and convicted.

The student denied during questioning that his words were intended as an insult to Erdogan, according to the court papers.

Video footage showed the boy being embraced by his mother as he emerged from custody. Dozens of his supporters sang and beat a drum in celebration of his release.

"We are not terrorists," the boy said after his release. "When we took this path, we made a promise not to turn to back. We shall not yield to the fascist, unprogressive pressure."

"We said we were the soldiers of Mustafa Kemal —that's why we were thrown in," he said, his voice breaking, referring to Turkey's late leader, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who founded the modern, secular Turkish republic after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. "We were intimidated."

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had defended the boy's detention on Thursday, saying: "The presidential office needs to be shown respect, no matter who he is."

Davutoglu added that his government would "protect the young." Erdogan hasn't commented on the boy's detention.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the opposition Republican People's Party, welcomed his release saying it was "wrong for a child to be kept in custody even for a minute."

"A child's place is not prison," the teenager's mother, Nazmiye Gok, told reporters and supporters who gathered outside the detention center. "They need to be in school, sitting at their desks."

"I am not ashamed of my child. I am proud of him," she said.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Turkish teen release: His crime? Insulting the president.
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today