Lesson learned? High-school student student arrested for “insulting” Erdogan released

Published December 27th, 2014 - 07:49 GMT
The student still risks up to four years in prison, as he awaits for the date of his trial. ((AFP/Adem Altan)
The student still risks up to four years in prison, as he awaits for the date of his trial. ((AFP/Adem Altan)

A Turkish court on Friday ordered the release of a 16-year-old high school student arrested for "insulting" President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, following accusations his detention was the latest sign of the country veering to authoritarianism, according to al-Akhbar English. 

Mehmet Emin Altunses was released following a complaint by his lawyer over his arrest in the central city of Konya.

"There is no question of taking a step back from our path, we will continue along this road," he said as he was released.

Altunses was arrested after delivering a speech in which he accused Erdogan and the ruling party of corruption on Wednesday in Konya, a stronghold of the ruling Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Altunses, who was arrested at school, denied links with any political party but confirmed he has accused Erdogan of being the "chief of theft, bribery and corruption."

The suspect's mother expressed shock over the arrest, saying he had been detained "as if he was an armed terrorist."

"He is only a boy, his place is in school and not the prison," Nazmiye Gok told the Hurriyet daily.

Others joined in criticising the arrest of the student. Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the head of Turkey's main opposition party Republican People's Party (CHP), welcomed the boy's release. "It is not right for a 16-year-old to stay in jail even for a minute. It is a good thing that a mistake is rectified, although belatedly," he said.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had supported the court's original decision to arrest the boy, saying: "Everyone must respect the office of president whoever he is."

The student's legal representative prepared a petition for his release, which was submitted to the courts. Furthermore approximately 100 colleagues came from Istanbul in a show of support.

The legal team also brought light to the fact that accusations against Erdogan and his inner circle have been circulating for months on social media without any action being taken.

Charges, however, have not been dropped as the student still awaits for his trial date to be set. He risks up to four years in prison.

The student's arrest adds to the growing concerns about freedom of speech in Turkey under Erdogan following raids earlier this month on opposition media linked to the president's top foe, exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen.

Gulen was accused by Erdogan of establishing a "parallel structure" within the state through his supporters in the judiciary, police and other state institutions, as well as wielding influence through the media.

However, the cleric denies the accusation of seeking to overthrow Erdogan's government.

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