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'Child sex' claims at Austrian airport infuriates Turkey, heightening tensions

15 August 2016, 19:32

Ankara – Turkey has protested to Austria over a news ticker at Vienna's airport that claimed Turkey allows sex with children under the age of 15, an official said on Monday, amid heightened tensions between the two countries.

A Foreign Ministry official said the Austrian chargé d'affaires was called to the ministry on Saturday for an official complaint about the "distorted" headline which appeared on a screen at the airport the same day. A ministry statement accused Austrian officials of encouraging news reports that "besmear" Turkey.

Turkey's Constitutional Court last month scrapped an article in the penal code that defined all sexual acts against children as abuse, triggering concern among child-rights advocates that the move will lead to an increase in child sexual abuse cases.

The court justices voted 7-6 to uphold a local court which argued that all cases should be reviewed individually and that someone who abuses a 4-year-old should not receive the same punishment as someone who has consensual sex with a 15-year-old.

The previous law remains in force for six months, giving Parliament time to enact a new law, while child-rights advocates will seek to have the judgment reversed at the European Court of Human Rights.

Tense diplomatic ties

A ministry statement said Turkey was "attached to its international obligations" regarding child rights and was "conscious of its responsibilities".

The ministry official said the report was removed from the screen at the Vienna airport following the Turkish ambassador's intervention. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government rules.

Turkey also demanded the removal of another news ticker at the same airport a few weeks ago that said visiting Turkey would amount to supporting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the ministry said.

Ties between Turkey and Austria have been tense for several weeks, with a top Austrian official saying Turkey was heading toward a dictatorship and other leaders calling for an end to Turkey's European Union membership talks.

Turkey, in turn, has described Austria as the "capital of radical racism".

European nations have voiced concern over Turkey's massive crackdown on alleged supporters of a religious movement led by US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara claims orchestrated last month's violent coup attempt that killed at least 270 people.

Turkey has accused European allies of not providing the elected government sufficient support in the face of the attempted coup or its bid to move against the coup plotters.

- AP


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