Three students of Turkey’s prestigious Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ) in Ankara were detained for carrying placards that allegedly insulted President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Ankara Chief Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement on Saturday.
“An investigation has been launched into the incident and three people have been detained,” the statement said, adding that the placards were carried during ODTÜ’s graduation ceremony. The Prosecutor’s Office did not specify which placards came under investigation.
“We are saddened by the unpleasant incidents [during the graduation ceremony] and we do not approve them,” the university’s Rector’s Office also said in a statement on Saturday, according to a report by Hurriyet Daily News.
Özgür Mehmet Gür, ODTÜ student council president, was also detained on Sunday.
Students carried placards with political messages during ODTÜ’s graduation ceremony on Friday as part of the 62-year-old university’s tradition. ODTÜ, one of the top public universities in Turkey, is specialized in engineering and the natural sciences.
A number of placards referred to the July 24 elections won by President Erdoğan, criticizing the government and supporting the main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) presidential candidate Muharrem İnce.
Only one placard that went viral on social media directly referred to Erdoğan, depicting the Turkish President in a cartoon as eight different animals, including a cow, a snake and a monkey, under the title “The Erdoğan World.”
Originally published by popular satire magazine Penguen, the cartoon was sued by Erdoğan 12 years ago, when he was Turkey’s prime minister. However, Ankara Civil Court of First Instance had rejected Erdoğan’s complaint in 2006, ruling that the cartoon could not be deemed “insulting” and should instead be seen in the scope of freedom of expression.