Turkey’s top appeals court says former interior minister should pay damages to academic over verbal assault

Former Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu (L) and academic Baskın Oran

The Supreme Court of Appeals has said in a judgment that former interior minister Süleyman Soylu should pay non-pecuniary damages to academic Baskın Oran due to his verbal attack against him over a column about the Kurdish minority, the Kısa Dalga news website reported on Friday.

The decision overturned a lower court ruling that had found Soylu’s remarks within the scope of freedom of expression.

Soylu had called Oran a “lackey” on social media, presumably implying that the academic was at foreign powers’ beck and call. The remarks were in reaction to an opinion column in which Oran had warned that widespread mistreatment of Kurds at the hands of the authorities could lead to resentment among the minority community and obstruct attempts at establishing social peace.

The lower court in Ankara had said Soylu was “calling attention to the public’s concerns in his capacity as interior minister” and “fulfilling the public’s right to be informed.”

Although the top court’s decision has just been made public, it was actually handed down in September 2022 when Soylu was still in the cabinet.

A highly controversial figure with alleged ties to ultranationalist factions and organized crime, Soylu was left out of the government in President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s post-election cabinet reshuffle earlier this year.

Recent law enforcement action against alleged criminal networks in Ankara under the watch of the new interior minister was widely perceived as Erdoğan’s way of further sidelining Soylu.

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