Two high school students were detained in Istanbul on Tuesday morning for allegedly insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkish media reported.
Speaking to Halk TV, lawyer Fulya Dağlı said both students were 16 years old and taken from their school to be questioned in the prosecutor’s office. The students were later released.
Gökçe Gökçen from the Republican People’s Party (CHP) said she spoke to both students. “They said they were questioned about participating in an International Women’s Day demonstration on March 8 and the slogans they chanted during the demonstration,” she said on Twitter.
According to their lawyer, the students were accused on chanting the slogan, “Tayyip run, women are coming!”
Speaking to the Sözcü daily, one of the students, identified as Eylül G., said her mobile phone was confiscated and she was questioned about a demonstration that took place two months ago.
“The accusations are baseless. I am not a criminal, and what is more, I’m a minor. I’m really upset at being detained while at school,” she said.
The other student, identified as Bedirhan D., said the police did not make it clear to them why they were detained. “I didn’t know what I was being accused of until I met with the prosecutor. Even if I did criticize Erdoğan, I think politicians should be able to take such criticism,” he said.
The detention of the two students sparked public outrage, and many people said on social media the accusations were ridiculous.
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 President 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 the president or his government as an insult.