Turkey’s top appeals court overturns conviction, cites error in application of law

Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals has overturned the conviction of an individual accused of membership in the faith-based Gülen movement, stating that Article 30 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), which pertains to error in understanding the material elements of a crime, was not properly applied, the TR724 news website reported.

The top court’s decision centered on Article 30(1) of the TCK, which stipulates that a person who is unaware of the material elements of the crime during its commission does not act with intent. Mistakes of this nature reserve the potential for liability due to negligence rather than intentional wrongdoing.

The court found that the defendant was not aware of the criminal nature of the act at the time it was committed, thereby lacking the necessary criminal intent.

Lawyer Hatice Yıldız, who shared the decision on X, emphasized the Supreme Court of Appeals’ assertion that the lower courts had erred in their evaluation of the evidence by not applying the “error provisions” of the TCK’s Article 30(1).

The case, which has drawn significant attention, involved a defendant initially convicted by the Balıkesir 3rd High Criminal Court on charges of being a member of the Gülen movement. The conviction was later upheld by a regional appeals court in Bursa.

Upon reviewing the case file, the top appeals court’s 3rd Criminal Chamber found that the lower courts failed to consider the provisions of Article 30(1).

This ruling sets a precedent for how error provisions should be interpreted and applied in Turkish criminal law, particularly in cases where the understanding of the criminal act’s material elements is flawed or incomplete.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, since the corruption investigations in 2013, which implicated then-prime minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.

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

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