Court acquits Cumhuriyet columnist on trial for ‘insulting’ Erdoğan

Court acquits Cumhuriyet columnist on trial for ‘insulting’ Erdoğan

Court acquits Cumhuriyet columnist on trial for ‘insulting’ Erdoğan An Istanbul court has acquitted Cumhuriyet columnist Özgür Mumcu, who was on trial for “insulting” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in a March 2015 opinion piece, ruling that the article expressed the defendant’s “value judgement,” which does not constitute a crime. 

The second penal court of first instance in Istanbul ruled in favor of Mumcu, who was being tried over an op-ed titled “Tyrant and a coward,” in which he blasted Erdoğan’s criticism of Hatice Cömert, the mother of Gezi protest victim Abdullah Cömert, who died in June 2013 after being hit by a gas canister.

At the time Mumcu wrote the piece, Erdoğan’s lawyer had filed a complaint against Hatice Cömert over the words she uttered while visiting a condolence tent on February 2015 for Özgecan Aslan, a university student who was brutally killed by a minibus driver in southern Turkey. 

Erdoğan’s lawyers cited the Turkish Criminal Code’s 106th article and demanded Cömert be sentenced to between six months to two years for uttering threats against the head of state. The charges were dismissed by the prosecutor’s office.

“It is well-known that tyrants are always fearful. They are so fearful that they would even file a complaint against someone like Abdullah Cömert’s mother,” Mumcu’s piece read.

During the trial on May 10, Erdoğan’s lawyer, Hatice Özay, asked for Mumcu’s punishment, saying his article fulfilled the criminal provisions of the crime of insulting. 

On the other hand, Mumcu’s lawyer, Bülent Utku, provided the example of the case of Mondragon v. Spain at the European Court of Human Rights whereby the court ruled that the “limits of acceptable criticism were wider with regard to politicians than private individuals,” adding that value judgements, supported by a sufficient factual basis, would not constitute an insult. 

“In the present case, as explained, the defendant explained his own interpretations and there is no criminal intent,” Utku said. 

In a similar vein, the court ruled for Mumcu’s acquittal, underlining the “structure of the piece, its scope and wording were expressions of the defendant’s value judgments,” adding the criminal provisions of a crime were not present in the case.