Euro court finds Turkey guilty in freedom of thought case
STRASBOURG, FranceThe European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has found Turkey guilty of violating the right to the freedom of expression, in a case regarding an article written by a law professor.
Mustafa Erdoğan, a constitutional law professor, published an article in a quarterly law journal criticizing Constitutional Court judges for their 2001 decision to shut down the Virtue Party (FP), a forerunner of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
The article suggested that the judges were incompetent and questioned their impartiality.
Three of the judges opened judicial proceedings against Erdoğan and Haluk Kürşad Kopuzlu, the publisher of the Liberal Thinking journal, claiming that the article was a serious personal attack on their honor and integrity. As a result, Turkish courts ruled from 2002 to 2004 that the article’s intimation that the judges lacked independence and competence amounted to defamation. Erdoğan and Kopuzlu were therefore ordered to pay damages to each respective judge.
Freedom of expression
Yesterday’s ECHR ruling stated that the verdict amounted to a violation of freedom of expression. “The Court found that the national courts’ decisions complained of by the applicants amounted to interference, prescribed by Turkish law, in the exercise of the applicants’ right to freedom of expression.”
“Some of the remarks made in the article were harsh they were largely value judgments, set out in general terms, with sufficient factual basis. They could not be considered gratuitous personal attacks on the three judges,” said the court.
The ECHR held that Turkey was to pay Erdoğan pecuniary damage in Euros equivalent to the damages paid by him after the claims lodged by the three judges, and 7,500 euros extra in non-pecuniary damages.