ECHR condemns Turkey over penalty for man who poured paint over Atatürk statues
The ECHR ruled that Turkey had violated Article 10 and Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, on freedom of expression and the right to free elections. AFP PhotoThe European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ordered Turkey to pay a man 26,000 euros, after he served a lengthy prison sentence for pouring paint on statues of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey, as a political protest.
The ECHR ruled that Turkey had violated Article 10 and Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, on freedom of expression and the right to free elections. It also described the punishment given to Murat Vural as "grossly disproportionate."
“The Court found in particular that the sentence imposed upon Mr. Vural was grossly disproportionate to the legitimate aim of protecting the reputation or rights of others under Article 10. Furthermore, his disenfranchisement, as an automatic consequence of his prison sentence, more than 11 years, was in breach of the right to free elections,” read the press release distributed by the ECHR about the decision.
Vural, a Turkish national born in 1975, was initially sentenced to 22.5 years of imprisonment in 2005, but on appeal the sentence was reduced to 13 years under the “Law on Offenses Committed against Atatürk” after he had poured paint on several statues of Atatürk located in public places. He was also banned from voting, taking part in elections and running associations while serving his sentence.
Vural had applied to the ECHR saying he had carried out his actions to express his dissatisfaction with the Kemalist ideology in Turkey.
The ECHR recognized Atatürk’s importance for Turkey and that the Turkish legislative body had laws criminalizing certain acts that it considers insulting to Atatürk’s memory and damaging to the sentiments of Turkish society.
“However, the Court was struck by the extreme severity of the sentence of more than 13 years’ imprisonment imposed on Vural. While his acts had involved a physical attack on property, the Court did not consider that those acts had been of a severity warranting the imposition of a custodial sentence,” the ECHR decision read.