Top court rules for bilingual party signs

Top court rules for bilingual party signs

Mesut Hasan Benli ANKARA / Radikal
Top court rules for bilingual party signs

This file photo shows a multi-lingual sign in Turkish, Kurdiah and English. DHA photo

Turkey’s Constitutional Court has ruled that opening legal proceedings against political party officials for using another language instead of Turkish on signs is against the Constitution.

The decision will especially affect members of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) who were facing prison time for using nameplates that included other languages, particularly Kurdish, as they can no longer be charged for violating provisions on party organizations that criminalized the use languages other than Turkish under the Political Parties Law.

Last year, a prosecutor in the eastern province of Van opened a case into Yakup Almaç, the BDP’s head for the province’s Özalp district, after he erected a bilingual, Turkish-Kurdish sign at his office in place of a monolingual Turkish one.

The prosecutor, who demanded jail time of between six months and five years for Almaç, pressed the charges on the grounds that “other languages apart from Turkish cannot be used and those violating this provision are to be punished.” The First Özalp Criminal Court of General Jurisdiction subsequently opened a lawsuit against the Constitutional Court, saying the article in the Political Parties Law violated the Constitution on the grounds that it was impossible for real persons to violate the prohibitions described in the law that are applicable to political parties.

 “Despite this, [real persons] were taken into the scope of the crime. The actions which are regarded as criminal are not clearly stated. Thus, the principles of legal security and specificity and, consequently, the principle of legality in crime and punishment have been violated,” the lower court said in demanding the law be annulled.

The Constitutional Court subsequently ruled that court cases would no longer be opened against party authorities who hang plates in Kurdish or any other language for their political party organization. The justification of this decision mainly concerns BDP authorities.