Turkish court says slogans against Erdoğan are slander
Mesut Hasan Benli ANKARA
A person unfurls a 'there is a thief' banner during an AKP rally earlier this year. DHA PhotoA Turkish court has said that “slanderous and insulting” slogans cannot be considered freedom of speech, in a ruling on the 11-month jail sentence given to an academic for chanting slogans against then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during a rally.
Elifhan Köse was sentenced to 11 months and 20 days in prison and denied probation, unlike many similar cases. In its reasoning for the length of the jail term, the judge said “the offense of slander is outside the limits of freedom of speech as defined by the Constitution and the European Court of the Human Rights.”
“The perpetrator’s right to freedom of speech and the victim’s fundamental rights to honor, respect and religion conflict here. It is clear that an action that aims to slander and has no connection to the declaration of an opinion or thought cannot be regarded as freedom of speech. The criticism cannot be made if it harms people’s rights to honor and respect,” said the reasoning of the court.
On March 12, 2014, around 300 people held a protest rally after the death of Berkin Elvan, who was injured and subsequently died during 2013’s Gezi Park protests. Köse, an academic from the Karamanoğlu Mehmetbey University, attended the rally and allegedly shouted slogans against Erdoğan.
The prosecutor filed a lawsuit against three people based on police camera footage of the rally, accusing Köse of chanting the slogan “Tayyip Erdoğan is [a] thief,” while Fatma Eser Gün and Mehmet Hüner were accused of chanting the “Murderer Tayyip will pay accounts.”
The court fined Gün and Hüner 7,000 Turkish Liras, while Köse was sentenced to 11 months and 20 days in prison.
Köse admitted in her defense that she had chanted the slogans during the protests, but did not aim to slander anyone. She also rejected the charges that she had chanted the slogan “Tayyip Erdoğan is [a] thief.”