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Turkish President Erdogan pardons 2 children on trial for insulting him — but only dropped the charges on a few conditions


'Just when you think Erdogan cannot become any more of a thin-skinned dictatorial creep, he finds a way.'

(Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently pardoned two children who have been on trial for insulting the president on social media years ago, after the kids agreed to apologize to Erdogan and memorize nationalist verses.

What are the details?

In Turkey, insulting a sitting president is a criminal act punishable by up to four years in jail. According to the Middle East Monitor, nearly 13,000 Turkish citizens were prosecuted for the offense between 2010 and 2017 — with nearly all of the cases allegedly filed by President Erdogan's lawyers.

But Erdogan apparently acted in "mercy" when he pardoned the two children who were accused of insulting him. One of the accused committed the alleged offense in 2014, and the other reportedly insulted the now-president during his premiership, which ended the same year.

"Following a court case, the children - whose ages are unknown - were given the option of being pardoned on the condition that they both offer their apologies to Erdogan," The Monitor reported. "Child [1] was also order to memorize the Turkish national anthem, while child [2] was ordered to memorize the famous poem 'Yagmur.'"

The outlet reported that after the children could recite the song and poem by heart, Erdogan dropped his complaint against them. An attorney for the president told Turkish newspaper HaberTurk on Thursday, "The two sides came to an agreement after the two kids memorized the national anthem and apologized to our president."

Sarah McLaughlin, an advocate for campus free speech group FIRE, tweeted out a link to The Monitor's story and wrote, "Just when you think Erdogan cannot become any more of a thin-skinned dictatorial creep, he finds a way. Just incredible."

Anything else?

Erdogan is known for being unable to let it go when he feels insulted.

The Turkish president is seeking the extradition of NBA player Enes Kanter — a Turkish national who plays for the New York Knicks — on charges of alleged connections to a terrorist organization because of his connection to exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Erdogan has accused of orchestrating the 2016 coup attempt against him.

Kanter and Gulen are both outspoken critics of Erdogan, and both vehemently deny the charges against them.

American pastor Andrew Brunson was arrested and jailed along with a swarm of other people in Turkey following the 2016 coup, on what he says were completely fabricated charges.

Prior to Erdogan taking office, the role of the Turkish president was largely ceremonial, but he has continued to amass greater power despite — and in reaction to — the coup attempted against him.

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