Euro court says freedom expression violated in case of draft novel seizure in Turkish prison
STRASBOURGThe European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on May 23 ruled that freedom of expression was breached in the case of the seizure of a draft novel written by a prisoner in the eastern Turkish province of Erzurum in 2004.
In its decision, the ECHR stated that the applicant, Resul Sarıgül, deposited the handwritten draft of a novel with the Erzurum prison authorities to be forwarded to his family through his lawyer on Dec. 1, 2004.
However, five days later, the chairman of the prison board seized the text of the novel on Dec. 15, 2004, claiming that the text “supported an illegal organization, insulted the police and used abusive and inappropriate language, including expressions directed against women, public morals and beliefs.”
Sarıgül appealed against the decision on Dec. 16, 2004, stating that the novel was a work of fiction, but the appeal was rejected. In January 2005, he handed the administration a letter for his lawyer along with the appeals decision, but that letter was also seized as an investigation was launched into him on charges of “public denigration of Turkishness, the Republic, the armed forces, and the State Security services.”
On July 29, 2005, he applied to the ECHR while the draft novel was returned in March 2006.
The court stated on May 23 that the seizure of the draft novel constituted an interference with his right to freedom of expression Article 10 § 2 of the Convention.
“Firstly, the disciplinary board had not expressly relied on any statutory basis in ordering the seizure of the manuscript, explaining only that the text in question contained inappropriate words and expressions according to the administration’s pre-established verification table, of which no details were given in the application file,” the court stated in its decision.
“The Court referred to its previous finding that the prison administration rules did not indicate with sufficient clarity the scope and terms of the authorities’ discretionary powers in such matters, and that their practical application did not appear to remedy that shortcoming,” it added.
However, regarding the seizure of the letter, the ECHR noted that Sarıgül had not exhausted all possible domestic remedies and rejected his complaints.
The Court also ordered Turkey to pay Sarıgül 1,500 euros in non-pecuniary damages.