A Turkish court has jailed a 17-year-old high school student for insulting the then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in a speech he made in Antalya.
The student was protesting the arrest of two students via a symbolic, one-square-meter report card for Erdoğan because of the death of Berkin Elvan. Elvan was a teenager who died after being hit by a teargas canister fired by the police during last Gezi protests in 2013.
H.U.C., who was only identified by his initials, was sentenced to seven months and 23 days in prison by the Antalya 2nd Juvenile Court. The decision was considered by many civil society groups and human rights activists as an example of yet another move by the government towards a more authoritarian Turkey.
The court has suspended the sentence for three years, meaning the student will not serve any time unless he commits a similar offense within the next three years.
On March 13, 2014, Antalya police detained a group of teenagers aged between 15 and 18 for insulting the then-prime minister Erdoğan. The group was protesting about the death of Gezi Park protester Berkin Elvan who had died two days earlier. They were initially released, but subsequently faced trial.
Another group of five high school students known as the “Young Hopes” then demonstrated, at Attalos square in Antalya, to protest the detention of the first group of students. H.U.C. was detained by the police after delivering a speech in which he allegedly insulted Erdoğan.
In a separate case, a Turkish court jailed a 16-year-old high school student in Dec. 24, 2014 for insulting Erdoğan. Police reportedly went to Meram Industrial Vocational High School in Konya, central Anatolia and took M.E.A., who was only identified by his initials, into custody in front of his teacher and fellow classmates. After his arrest, the student was interrogated and later jailed at the 1st Konya Penal Court of Peace on charges of insulting Erdoğan, who is now the president.
According to Turkish law, the student was facing up to four years in prison. M.E.A. rejected the accusations and said he had no intention of insulting the president.
In a similar case, police arrested a 24-year-old university student on Friday, on charges of reportedly insulting Erdoğan. Halit Meşe, a student in the Faculty of Agriculture at Çukurova University, was detained on Thursday and referred to court after being questioned at the prosecutor’s office that evening. The court decided to arrest Meşe early on Friday, and he was thereafter put in prison.
Also, on Dec 10, 2014, a court fined a university student for ‘insulting’ Erdoğan on a Facebook post. The 58th İstanbul Criminal Court of First Instance ordered B.M., known only by his initials, to pay a fine of TL 6,080 ($2,700) on charges of “insulting a public official for his or her duty.”