An official in Turkey's ruling party has been arrested for chewing gum while laying a wreath at a monument to the country's revered founder, Kemal Ataturk, the state Anatolian news agency said on Monday.
Veysel Dalci, head of the local branch of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the Black Sea town of Fatsa, was charged with insulting Ataturk's memory during Sunday's ceremony marking Turkey's National Sovereignty Day.
CNN Turk television quoted Dalci, a 38-year-old pharmacist and father of two, as saying he chewed gum to hide the smell of garlic that he had eaten the previous evening.
"After laying a wreath at the monument, I noticed I had gum in my mouth. I am very sorry," CNN Turk quoted him as saying.
Anatolian said Dalci was arrested after a local army garrison commander complained to state prosecutors. It was not immediately clear what kind of penalty Dalci would face.
Showing disrespect to Ataturk, the soldier-statesman who founded the modern Turkish Republic on the ashes of the old Ottoman Empire in 1923, is a crime in the European Union candidate nation. Ataturk died in 1938.
Secularists especially revere Ataturk as the leader who banished religion from political life and modeled Turkey's state institutions on those of Europe, especially France.
The secularists, who dominate Turkey's military and judiciary, deeply distrust the AKP on account of its roots in political Islam. The AKP denies any Islamist agenda but wants to ease some of Turkey's restrictions on religious expression.