A Turkish prosecutor is seeking up to three years in prison for a 17-year-old high school student who was arrested last week following the circulation of a video on social media showing him performing a lewd act with a picture of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey, the Gazete Duvar news website reported on Thursday.
The detention and arrest of 17-year-old A.E.S. last week caused a stir in the country.
Opposition politicians, including Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, criticized the action and accused Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of exploiting the public’s sensitivities to deceive them and foment enmity among Turks.
The teenager’s arrest and potential prison sentence comes under Law 5816, “The Law Concerning Crimes Committed Against Atatürk,” which safeguards “the memory of Atatürk” from insult by any Turkish citizen. Violation of this law can result in imprisonment for up to five years.
According to the indictment prepared by the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, the video was discovered on a social media platform by law enforcement on July 8. The social media post reportedly contained both video and written content that “insulted the memory of Atatürk.”
The high school student stated that the video was shot approximately two years ago when he was in ninth grade and claimed that he was not aware that the person in the photo was Atatürk.
The prosecution decided not to pursue charges of “inciting hatred and enmity among the public.”
The arrest of A.E.S. follows a similar incident on Sept. 11, when a 16-year-old was arrested for vandalizing an Atatürk monument with spray paint.
The frequent prosecutions in Turkey under the banner of protecting Atatürk’s memory shed light on the general problem of restrictions on freedom of expression, as numerous individuals face daily legal consequences for expressing opinions on topics considered “taboo” in Turkey, including criticism of Atatürk and government actions.