ECtHR rules against Turkey in case of student convicted of insulting Erdoğan

European Court of Human Rights building, Strasbourg

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has ruled that Turkey violated the right to freedom of expression of Ömür Çağdaş Ersoy, who was convicted for his comments against then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Ersoy was convicted of “insulting a public official” after he made a statement in support of his friends who were detained after protesting Erdoğan’s visit to the prestigious Middle East Technical University (METU) in Ankara back in 2012.

“Today, it is a victory for them because our friends are detained after a sham operation, but it is only a temporary one,” Ersoy had said. “This fight is the second slap against Tayyip Erdoğan, who was slapped at METU, which he considered a castle to conquer but failed, and as a result attacked students like a mad dog to take revenge.”

Ersoy was prosecuted after a complaint filed by Erdoğan’s attorneys in 2013.

In its ruling the ECtHR made reference to its previous decisions that said acceptable levels of criticism can be different for politicians in comparison to other individuals. The rights court ruled that Turkey had violated Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which stipulates that “everyone has the right to freedom of expression.”

Turkey has been ordered to pay Ersoy 4,000 euros in compensation.

Thousands of people in Turkey are under investigation, and most of them are under the threat of imprisonment, over alleged insults of President Erdoğan. The insult cases generally stem from social media posts shared by Erdoğan opponents. The Turkish police and judiciary perceive even the most minor criticism of Erdoğan or his government as an insult.

Insulting the president is a crime in Turkey, according to the controversial Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK). Whoever insults the president can face up to four years in prison, a sentence that can be increased if the crime was committed through the mass media.

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