Turkey's foreign ministry said Sunday, it had summoned Austria's charge d'affaires to Ankara late Saturday, to protest the electronic headline displayed at Vienna's Schwechat airport, which claimed: "Turkey allows sex with children under the age of 15."
Images of the electronic ticker message were circulated on social media before the item - based on a report by the Austrian tabloid newspaper "Kronen Zeitung" - was removed at Ankara's behest, said the Turkish news agency- Dogan.
The "Kronen" was reporting on last month's ruling by the Turkish constitutional court, that favored the removal of a sexual abuse penal code provision for children under 15, in relation to eligibility for marriage.
That ruling, based on an application by a local court, prompted strong protests by Turkish women's rights activists, who voiced concern that cases of child abuse would go unpunished.
Turkish media said the activists may seek a reversal of the ruling, which is due to take effect in January, by going the European Court of Human Rights.
Ticker newspaper's responsibility, says airport
An airport spokesman denied responsibility for the ticker on its premises, saying the contents were the editorial responsibility of "Austria's largest daily newspaper."
"Our disturbance and reaction over this display, which tarnishes Turkey's image and deliberately misinforms the public have been strongly conveyed to the charge d'affaires," the Turkish ministry said.
Austrian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Thomas Schnoell, confirmed that Turkey had summoned its charge d'affaires late Saturday, but added that "this is for us a matter of freedom of the press."
Wallstrom speaks out for Turkish children
Swedish Foreign Minister, Margot Wallstrom, waded into the under-age row Sunday.
"Turkish decision to allow sex with children under 15 must be reversed. Children need more protection, not less, against violence, sex abuse," tweeted the former European Commission vice president and former UN envoy on sexual violence in conflicts.
Previous message also contentious
Last week, Turkey and Austria clashed over a previous ticker message in which the same newspaper declared: "If you go to Turkey, you are supporting (Turkish President Recept Tayypi) Erdogan."
That message was also taken down after a complaint from Turkey.
Relations have plunged in recent weeks over Turkey's massive purge that followed its 15 July failed coup attempt by rogue soldiers, in which more than 240 people were killed.
Austrian Defense Minister, Hans-Peter Doskozil, compared Turkey to a "dictatorship," while Turkey's Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, decribed Austria as the "capital of radical racism."
Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern suggested ending EU accession talks with Turkey, which have made minimal progress since they began in 2005.
ipj/tj (Reuters, AFP)