14-year-old gets suspended sentence for insulting President Erdoğan on WhatsApp

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (Photo by Adem ALTAN / AFP)

A 14-year-old boy was handed down a five-month suspended sentence on July 6 for insulting the president, Turkish media reported. 

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

The boy was initially given a one-year sentence, but due to his young age and good behavior in court, the sentence was reduced to five months and was suspended.

In his defense B.C.G. said he had not insulted the president and had only criticized other group members who had made anti-democratic comments. 

The authorities had referred the boy to Turkey’s Council of Forensic Medicine (ATK), where it was determined that he was old enough to understand the difference between right and wrong and could be held accountable for his actions. The Istanbul Gaziosmanpaşa Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office requested the boy’s prosecution.

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.

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.

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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