Court cites European precedent in accepting ‘anti-faith' lawsuit
Hürriyet photoA Turkish court agreed this morning to hear a lawsuit filed against an Internet user on the grounds that he "belittled faith in God" on a website, citing a European precedent for its decision.
The suspect, identified by his initials A.M.S., faces up to 1.5 years in prison for violating the 216th article of the Turkisa penal code.
Numerous complaints were lodged against A.M.S. on the grounds that he insulted religious beliefs in a piece of writing titled "The Farce of Religion" he published on the popular Internet site "Ekşisözlük" (Sour Dictionary).
In accepting the case, Istanbul prosecutor Nurten Altınok pointed to a European Court of Human Rights ruling in the "Otto-Preminger Institut (OPI) vs. Austria" case as a precedent in which a ban against the OPI-sponsored film "Council in Heaven" (Das Liebeskonzil) was upheld on the grounds that it "belittled religious teachings."
Altınok said A.M.S. went beyond the limits of freedom of speech and criticism by ridiculing Muslim prayer rituals and the Islamic belief that the universe was created by God.
The prosecutor referred to the European court’s decision which noted the duty "to avoid making statements that carry gratuitous insults toward others ... which do not contribute to a public debate that aims for the advancement of humanity."
"The Turkish penal code does not aim to protect God, religion, prophets or sects but aims to protect people's feelings toward such notions,” the prosecutor's statement said. “One can surely criticize these notions and express one's opinions about them. However, one has to bear in mind not to hurt others' feelings when doing so."
A.M.S. said he had no criminal intent and did not target anyone in his writing.