Armenian-origin columnist fined for ‘insulting’ Ankara mayor

Armenian-origin columnist fined for ‘insulting’ Ankara mayor

Mesut Hasan Benli - ANKARA
Armenian-origin columnist fined for ‘insulting’ Ankara mayor

Armenian-origin columnist Hayko Bağdat.

A local court in Ankara has ordered Turkish-Armenian journalist Hayko Bağdat to pay 1,160 Turkish Liras for “insulting” Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek, saying in its ruling Bağdat had committed the crime under “provocation” by Gökçek, who made statements that “could be assumed as insulting” to the Armenian community.

Gökçek had sought charges of both “slandering” and “insulting” as well as “inciting people to hatred and enmity,” as he complained Bağdat had used the words “Armenian” and “disgusting” to describe him.

The Ankara 24th Criminal Court of First Instance initially sentenced Bağdat on Dec. 7 to 105 days in prison.

However, the court reduced the sentence to 70 days because the crime was committed under “provocation, because Gökçek wrote statements on social media which could be assumed as insulting to the society that the convict belonged to.” The court further reduced the sentence for good behavior before ultimately converting the punishment to a fine of 1,160 liras to be paid to the Treasury. 

In his defense, Bağdat said Gökçek repeatedly asks his critics on social media whether they are “Armenian,” adding the Ankara mayor was “disgusting” for using the term “Armenian” to describe people he dislikes. He demanded his acquittal and told the court that he did not deliberately intend to “insult” Gökçek. 

Ali Deniz Ceylan, Bağdat’s lawyer, also told the court that Gökçek, who is well-known in Turkey as a prolific Twitter user, has tweeted many derogatory statements against which his client has responded. 

While sentencing Bağdat to a fine of 1,160 liras, Judge Süleyman Köksaldı also delayed a compensation lawsuit opened by Gökçek against Bağdat. 

Shortly after the ruling, Bağdat slammed the decision via his Twitter account on Dec. 7. 

“My last words on this issue: Gökçek is committing a hate crime by calling anyone he dislikes ‘Armenian.’ This is disgusting behavior. Also, Gökçek himself is an Armenian,” he tweeted. 

Back on Sept. 28, Bağdat told reporters that he faced a jail term after calling Gökçek “Armenian.”

“Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek has opened a court case [because] I called him ‘Armenian.’ Let me say why I called him ‘Armenian.’ Whenever he grabs a microphone or takes the keyboard in his hands, he calls his political rivals, the voters of his political rivals … journalists, and anyone he is angry with, ‘Armenian.’ He constantly says they are traitors because they are ‘Armenians’ or they have ‘Armenian’ roots, as if all elements making trouble for this country must somehow have a relationship to ‘Armenianness,’” he said.