13-year-old boy in Turkey faces lawsuit over insulting Erdogan on WhatsApp

13-year-old boy in Turkey faces lawsuit over insulting Erdogan on WhatsApp
Erdogan seen campaigning on May 1 at a defence industry event. / Turkish Presidency.
By Akin Nazli in Belgrade May 1, 2023

Gaziosmanpasa Juvenile Court in Istanbul has accepted an indictment filed by the Istanbul Gaziosmanpasa Chief Public Prosecutor's Office against a 13-year-old boy referred to as "B.C.G." on charges of insulting Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, local daily Birgun reported on April 30.

The prosecutor's indictment argues that the child attacked Erdogan’s honour and dignity, according to Duvar English.

B.C.G.’s remarks in a WhatsApp group triggered a complaint from a person in the group to the Presidential Communications Center (CIMER). Some other users in the WhatsApp group posted comments on how sharia rule will be introduced in Turkey, adding that those who love founder of the Republic of Turkey Mustafa Kemal Ataturk will be executed.

B.C.G. has denied the charges. He has stated that he did not post an insult, but simply showed a reaction.

However, the court has opened a lawsuit, while forensic medicine officials have prepared a report to confirm that the child was aware of the legal consequences of his actions.

In 2021, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) issued a ruling suggesting that criminalising the act of insulting Erdogan was a violation of basic human rights and freedom of speech.

Turks talk of “the sergeant’s donkey”. When the sergeant orders something, you have to do it. When the donkey heehaws, no one cares.

In 2022, a total of 1,075 children, up from 305 in 2021, were sued over charges of insulting Erdogan, insulting the Turkish state and insulting the Turkish nation. A total of 53 of the 1,075 children were aged between 12 and 14. The rest were aged between 15 and 17.

Also in 2022, a fresh record was set for the number of lawsuits opened on insulting Erdogan. A total of 16,753 Turks, or 46 per day, faced the courts in relation to such lawsuits.

Turkey is less than two weeks away from its May 14 parliamentary and presidential elections, in which the country’s leader of two decades Erdogan will attempt to secure another term. If none of the candidates secure more than 50% of the vote in the poll for the presidency, the two top-placed candidates will face off in a May 28 decider.

Some analysis suggests that in the run-up to such a head-to-head, Erdogan will become a far more bruising candidate.