Two children aged 12 and 13 have been arrested on charges of “insulting the Turkish president” after allegedly tearing down posters showing a photo of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, news website Radikal has reported.
The two cousins, identified only by the initials R.Y. and R.T., now each face up to two years and four months in prison, upon approval of the case by the Justice Ministry.
R.Y. and R.T., two cousins, were detained on May. 1 for tearing down the posters outside the local highway directorate in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır.
In his testimony, R.Y. reportedly said the two were heading back home from the market and they wanted to remove the posters from the billboards in order to sell them to a junk dealer.
“We did not care about whose posters they were. We just wanted to remove them in order to sell them to a junk dealer,” R.Y. said.
The Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office applied to the Justice Ministry to file a lawsuit against the two children, as Article 299 of the Turkish Criminal Code (TCK) states that filing a legal case on charges of “defaming the Turkish president” must be done upon approval from the Justice Ministry.
After approval from the ministry, the case was filed against the two cousins in the Diyarbakır 1st Children Court.
The prosecutor’s office also asked for implementation of Article 5 of the Child Protection Law, which means counselling the family of the children in question, assuring their school attendance, and assuring their health conditions.
The article also includes the settlement of children implicated in criminal activities in a children’s home after serving their time in a young offenders’ prison.
The first court hearing will be held on Dec. 8 this year, as the indictment prepared by the prosecutor’s office has been accepted by the Diyarbakır First Children’s Court.
The children’s lawyer, İsmail Korkmaz, said the charges of “insulting the Turkish president” were “unclear” and it was difficult for children to even know who the posters showed.
“It is devastating to see two children being tried for tearing down a poster of the president,” Korkmaz added, slamming Turkey’s “illiberal” justice system.