Turkey arrests 2 teenagers for denigrating religious values, sentences one for insulting Atatürk

A Turkish court in Aydın has ruled to arrest two teenagers out of three who were detained on allegations of denigrating the public’s religious values on social media, releasing one under judicial supervision, while an İstanbul court handed down a suspended sentence to another teenager for insulting the founder of the Republic of Turkey, the Gazete Duvar news website reported.

Prosecutors in the southwestern province had launched an investigation into a video that circulated on social media. The content of the video was not disclosed by reports in the Turkish media. The police had detained three people, all of them 16 years old.

In İstanbul a court handed down a suspended sentence of one year, eight months to a 17-year-old high school student on charges of insulting Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic.

The young man, identified only by the initials A.E.S., was detained and arrested in September over a video of him performing a lewd act with a picture of Atatürk. He was released after the court announced its verdict.

Turkey’s laws that criminalize insult, denigration and fomenting enmity are regularly used by the authorities to detain, arrest and prosecute individuals, particularly when their acts or commentary attract widespread attention on social media. Some have described this dynamic as the “Twitter court,” referring to the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

Incidents and comments concerning Atatürk or Islamic symbols often cause tensions along the secular-conservative divide.

In recent years, the Turkish government has passed laws that tightened its grip on social media by coercing platforms to appoint representatives in Turkey and threatening to reduce bandwidth for platforms that fail to comply with court orders for censorship.

A new provision enacted last year makes it a crime to “spread false or misleading information online” and has led to the detention and prosecution of numerous social media users.

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