13-year-old appears in court on charges of insulting Erdoğan in a WhatsApp group conversation 

A 13-year-old boy who has been indicted on charges of insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in a WhatsApp group conversation appeared in juvenile court at the first hearing of his trial, the Birgün daily reported.

A teenage boy identified only by the initials B.C.G. was accused of insulting President Erdoğan in a WhatsApp group conversation after a group member filed a complaint with the Presidential Communications Center (CIMER). 

The hearing was held at the İstanbul Gaziosmanpaşa 2nd Juvenile Court on Thursday.

B.C.G. said in his defense in court that he did not intend to insult the president on social media but rather had criticized other group members who had made anti-democratic comments. 

In its report on the case, Turkey’s Council of Forensic Medicine (ATK) determined that he can be held accountable for his actions.

The Istanbul Gaziosmanpaşa Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office had earlier requested the boy’s prosecution. The second hearing will be held in October.

Insulting the president is a crime in Turkey, according to the controversial Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK). Whoever insults the president can face up to four years in prison, a sentence that can be increased if the crime was committed through the mass media.

According to Article 31 of the TCK, penalties to be imposed on juveniles shall be reduced by half.

In a report published in 2021, UNICEF and Turkey’s Justice Ministry said over 500,000 children come in contact with the law in Turkey every year having been accused of or convicted of an offence, or as victims or witnesses of crimes.

Thousands of people in Turkey are under investigation, and most of them are under the threat of imprisonment, over alleged insults of Erdoğan. The insult cases generally stem from social media posts shared by Erdoğan opponents. The Turkish police and judiciary perceive even the most minor criticism of Erdoğan or his government as an insult.

Turkish prosecutors launched 7,600 investigations into individuals on allegations of insulting the president in 2022, according to data from the Justice Ministry.

Since Erdoğan was first elected president in 2014, more than 160,000 people have been investigated on allegations of insult; criminal charges have been filed against 45,000 of them; and 13,000 people have been convicted of the crime of insulting the president.

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