ECtHR rules Turkey violated rights of singer/columnist jailed on terrorism charges

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has said the rights of a famous singer and columnist who was jailed for 14 months in a post-coup crackdown in Turkey were violated, Turkish Minute reported.

The Strasbourg court, which announced its decision on Atilla Taş on Tuesday, said the pre-trial detention of Taş “on account of tweets and articles written by him, was unlawful and arbitrary,” unanimously ruling that there had been a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights’ Article 5 § 1 on the right to liberty and security as well as a violation of Article 10, which concerns freedom of expression. The court found by a majority vote that there had been no violation of Article 5 § 4, which concerns inability to consult the investigation file.

Taş was writing daily columns for the Meydan newspaper, a media outlet affiliated with the faith-based Gülen movement, which was accused of orchestrating a coup attempt in July 2016, although it denies any involvement. Taş is also an active Twitter user and frequently criticizes Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its leader and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in his tweets.

As part of a post-coup crackdown targeting followers and supporters of the movement, Taş was arrested in September 2016 on charges of “aiding a terrorist organization without holding membership in it.”

After 14 months of pretrial detention, he was convicted by a court but released pending appeal in October 2017. He was then sent to prison a second time in November 2017 after a regional appeals court upheld a local court’s sentence of three years, one month and 15 days over Gülen links. Taş was released due to time served after a court in northwestern Turkey accepted an objection to his continued imprisonment in February 2018.

The European court ruled that Turkey was to pay Taş 12,275 euros in non-pecuniary damages and 3,175 euros for costs and expenses.

Commenting to Deutsche Welle Turkish edition, Taş said he was happy about the ruling but that no court ruling or compensation could give him back the days he spent in prison.

Taş also criticized the ECtHR for not making its rulings in a timely manner, saying that the court had also failed in its handling of rights violations cases from Turkey.

The singer had also filed an individual application at Turkey’s Constitutional Court, but the court found no rights violation in his pre-trial detention.

Jurists at the Freedom of Expression Association in Turkey filed Taş’s application with the ECtHR.

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