78-year-old retired teacher fined for ‘insulting’ deputy minister

A Turkish court has fined a 78-year-old former teacher for insulting a deputy minister, ordering the teacher to pay him TL 7,080 ($220) as well as to cover his legal expenses, Deutsche Welle Turkish service reported on Monday.

The defendant, identified only by the initials N.Ç., who lives in the northwestern province of Çanakkale, had reacted on social media to remarks by Deputy Interior Minister Bülent Turan, then a parliamentary group leader for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Turan had advertised a government project to construct a bridge across the Dardanelles by calling those who criticize it “numskulls,” to which N.Ç. had replied, “Look in the mirror and see who’s the real numskull.”

Turan’s lawyers filed a complaint against N.Ç.

During the trial, the defense lawyers pointed out that Turan had filed similar complaints against 120 people, indicating that he was motivated by financial gain.

While denying the accusation, the defense highlighted the mutual nature of the exchange, claiming that even if there was an insult, it was not unilateral. The teacher’s lawyer also referred to an October 2023 precedent where Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals had concluded that the word in question did not amount to insult.

It is common for ordinary people in Turkey to face accusations of insult due to their public or online criticism of high-ranking government officials and bureaucrats.

Accused of operating under political control and being biased, Turkish courts tend to penalize government critics on insult charges while interpreting similar words by ruling party officials as an exercise of their freedom of expression.

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