Turkish court acquits 12 over attack on outspoken fashion designer

A Turkish court on Friday acquitted 12 of 13 suspects who stood trial for a mob attack on Barbaros Şansal, one of Turkey’s most famous fashion designers and an outspoken critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkish Minute reported.

The court imposed a fine on one suspect but deferred the announcement of the verdict.

The famous designer was attacked by a nationalist mob at an İstanbul airport and then jailed in January 2017 due to a controversial video he posted on New Year’s Eve.

In the video he criticized Turks for attending New Year’s Eve celebrations despite problems in Turkey such as mass detentions, corruption, rape, bribery and bigotry. “I won’t celebrate. Do you know what I’m gonna do? I will drink all the drinks in this bar and then more at home,” Şansal said in the video before adding, “Drown in your shit, Turkey!”

After being taken into custody by the police at the airport, he appeared in court and was arrested the following day, charged with “inciting the public to hatred or hostility” under Article 216 of the Turkish Penal Code. Şansal said the words he used were “a satire against discrimination” and denied the accusations leveled against him.

Şansal was released from Silivri Prison, where most of Turkey’s political prisoners are  incarcerated, on March 2, 2017, after spending 56 days in a solitary cell. He faced harassment due to his sexual identity during the initial days of his imprisonment, according to his own account.

Şansal, who is also an LGBTI+ activist, told Turkish Minute in an interview last year that he moved to northern Cyprus because he felt his life and property were not safe in Turkey. He said his opposition to Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) made his life intolerably difficult in the country.

The prosecution demanded sentences of up to five years on various charges for the 13 defendants.

The Bakırköy 26th Criminal Court of First Instance acquitted 12 defendants of the charges and imposed a fine on one defendant but deferred the announcement of the verdict.

The court’s decision drew the ire of Turkish dissidents, with many taking to Twitter to express their dissatisfaction with the acquittals.

“Congratulations, mob,” prominent Turkish journalist Can Dündar, who lives in exile in Germany, tweeted about the court’s ruling.

Turkey’s judiciary has been criticized by international bodies for its increasingly partisan stance since an attempted coup in 2016.

Critics accuse Turkish judges of issuing rulings favoring pro-government individuals when the wronged party is an opponent of the ruling AKP.

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