The trial of a 16-year-old boy charged with insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was suspended shortly after it began Friday following his lawyer’s request for new judges.

An attorney defending the teen, Mehmet Emin Altunses, disagreed with the court’s decision to try the case behind closed doors and asked for the justices to be replaced, Dogan news agency reported.

The judges halted the trial about 15 minutes after it started and adjourned the case until April 3.

Altunses was arrested in December in the middle of lessons at school after he accused Erdogan of being the “chief of theft, bribery and corruption” in comments at a student protest in the central Konya province.

A court released the boy pending trial amid accusations his detention was the latest sign of a lurch to authoritarianism under Erdogan. Altunses faces up to four years in jail if convicted.

A small group of supporters, including classmates, opposition lawmakers and activists, staged a protest in support of the boy outside the court Friday in Konya, Dogan said.

The authorities are hugely sensitive to allegations of corruption following sensational claims against key government members and Erdogan’s inner circle that broke in December 2013.

The opposition accuses the authorities of setting up a cult of personality around Erdogan, who became president in August after over a decade as prime minister.

The government has recently stepped up arrests of people accused of personally insulting Erdogan, detaining an increasing number of Turks from students to celebrities.

Former Miss Turkey beauty queen Merve Buyuksarac faces up to four and a half years in jail over an Instagram feed that prosecutors deem to be insulting to Erdogan — the latest of such cases.

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AFP

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