Geneva rejects Turkish demand to remove pic accusing Erdogan of killing boy

Turkey’s demand to remove a photo of a boy from an exhibition in Geneva, Switzerland, has been rejected. The photo claims that then-PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan was directly involved in the death of a child amidst anti-government protests in 2013.

“Geneva will not allow any country to be influenced in this matter. Geneva and Switzerland stand for freedom of expression,” Vice Mayor Guillaume Barazzone told Swiss media.

Place des Nations in front of the UN Office, where the exhibition is being staged, is a good example of this freedom as this is “where minorities must be able to express” their opinions, he added.

“Therefore the administrative council will support this exhibition and it is out of the question to remove this photograph.”

Demir Sönmez, a Swiss photographer of Kurdish and Armenian origin, said he is appalled by the Turkish reaction to his exhibition.

“Turkey's reaction is unacceptable," he told RT.

“Erdogan's reaction is normal, because it’s Erdogan! He’s like a sultan in his own country. He's begun to insult European journalists and European citizens," Sönmez added.

The photographer said that as things stand, “there’s no tolerance for journalists, intellectuals, academics in Turkey.”

“There are currently 2,000 criminal cases opened in Turkey for having insulted the president. Turkey is the world’s largest prison for journalists. As many as 33 journalists are imprisoned there," he told RT.

READ MORE: Turkey demands Switzerland remove picture accusing Erdogan of killing boyThe scandal broke on Monday when Ankara demanded Switzerland remove a photo of Berkin Elvan, a boy who was fatally injured in June 2013 during mass demonstrations against then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan at Istanbul’s Gezi Park.

On June 16, 2013, Elvan left home to buy some bread, his family said. On the way back he was hit in the head with a tear gas canister that was fired by police during clashes with protesters.

The boy died in hospital at the age of 15 after spending 269 days in a coma. His mother, Gulsum Elvan, blamed his death on Erdogan, who praised the “legendary heroism” of police in anti-government rallies back in June 2013.

“My name is Berkin Elvan. The police killed me, on the order of Turkey's prime minister,” says the caption under Sönmez's photo of Elvan.

“Erdogan said that the 14-year-old boy is a terrorist. That's unacceptable. He insulted the family of the boy by stating that [Turkish] police had gained a huge victory against terrorism,” Sönmez told RT.

The boy’s death sparked mass protests in Turkey; many of them resulted in violent clashes between demonstrators and police.

Turkey’s embassy in the Swiss capital Bern confirmed on Tuesday that they had been trying to “establish verbal contact with the Geneva city authorities” to inform them that Elvan’s photograph stirred certain “reactions” among Geneva-based Turkish non-governmental organizations.

This is not the first time Erdogan has tried to exercise influence over foreign media.

Earlier this month Germany opened an investigation into TV comedian Jan Boehmermann's poem criticizing the Turkish president after Erdogan filed a personal lawsuit against him. The comic now faces prosecution under a rarely-used law that punishes those who insult foreign dignitaries.

The Turkish consulate in Rotterdam emailed Turkish organizations with the request they report “derogatory” comments about “our president, the Turkish nation or Turkey in general.” In a sinister turn, the letter refers to "everything that's being shared on Twitter, Facebook and even in private emails."

A number of EU journalists have been denied entry to Turkey in recent months. In April, Dutch journalist Ebru Umar said she was briefly detained in Turkey over Twitter posts critical of Erdogan. Also in April, a TV journalist for German broadcaster ARD Volker Schwenck, who was going to the Turkish-Syrian border to report on refugees, spent six hours detained at Istanbul airport after being refused entry into Turkey.

In March a correspondent for the influential German magazine Der Spiegel, Hasnain Kazim, was forced to leave the country by Turkish authorities after his press credentials weren’t renewed. The magazine’s editor-in-chief accused Turkey of violating press freedom.