Former teacher acquitted after ECtHR ruling on violation of his rights

Former teacher Yasin Özdemir, who was sentenced to seven months, 15 days in prison for his alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement, was acquitted on September 29 after the case was reopened based on a December 2021 decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) on the “violation of rights” in his case, the Bold Medya news website reported.

Özdemir, who worked as a social sciences teacher at a private school in Turkey’s southern province of Isparta, was detained after a July 15, 2016 coup attempt for his social media post favorable to the Gülen movement. He later had his teaching license revoked by court order and was arrested in August 2016 for “praising a crime and a criminal.”

After his release from prison, Özdemir appealed to the ECtHR to reclaim his lost rights. The ECtHR ruled on December 7, 2021 that Özdemir’s prosecution for his posts on social media violated his right to freedom of expression, under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

At a hearing before a criminal court in Isparta, the prosecutor invoked the ECtHR ruling, and the court acquitted Özdemir.

Özdemir announced that he would file a lawsuit for compensation for his time in prison and for the revocation of his teaching license.

According to 2021 statistics announced by ECtHR President Robert Spano in January, Turkey ranks second among countries with applications pending at the court, with 15,251, coming only after Russia.

As in the previous year, Turkey ranked first among the 47 Council of Europe (CoE) member states in the number of judgments from the ECtHR concerning violations of freedom of expression in 2021.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. Erdoğan intensified the crackdown on the movement following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that he accused Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.

Following the failed coup, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency and carried out a massive purge of state institutions under the pretext of an anti-coup fight. More than 130,000 public servants were summarily removed from their jobs for alleged membership in or relationships with “terrorist organizations” by emergency decree-laws subject to neither judicial nor parliamentary scrutiny.

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