Turkey violated freedom of speech in former MP case: ECHR
STRASBOURGThe European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that Turkey violated freedom of expression due to a local court ruling in 2002 that fined former Turkish deputy Yücel Erdener for remarks criticizing the medical care given to late Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit.
The ECHR ruled that the 2003 local court ruling against Erdener was a “disproportionate interference with her right to freedom of expression and was not necessary in a democratic society.”
It found in particular that the judgment against Erdener had been “disproportionate” because her remarks, made in private conversation with a journalist about a subject discussed widely in the media and among parliamentarians, amounted to a personal opinion with “a sufficient factual basis.”
In 2002, Erdener had made criticizing remarks about then-Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit’s treatment at private Başkent University’s Hospital, saying “[the hospital] nearly drove him [Ecevit] to his death.” The administration of Başkent University lodged a criminal complaint against Erdener for defamation but she was acquitted on April 29, 2003. Later, in parallel proceedings, the administration of Başkent University filed a civil suit against Erdener seeking compensation for damage to its reputation.
The Ankara District Court subsequently ordered Erdener to pay compensation for “damaging the hospital’s reputation.”
Over 10 years later, the ECHR has now found that although the damages Erdener was ordered to pay are ultimately not very high, the ruling had a deterrent effect on free discussion of issues of public interest.
The ECHR has order Turkey to pay Erdener 2,340 euros in pecuniary damage, 7,500 euros in non-pecuniary damage, and 1,000 euros for costs and expenses.