Court rejects insult case filed against Erdoğan, citing right to free speech

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan delivers a speech during the 9th Ambassadors Conference at the Presidental Complex in Ankara, on January 9, 2017. / AFP PHOTO

An Ankara court has rejected an insult case filed by renowned Professor Baskın Oran against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for remarks he made to describe academics who signed a peace declaration in January 2016 criticizing curfews declared in predominantly Kurdish southeastern districts, saying the president’s remarks were within the limits of free speech.

Erdoğan harshly criticized more than 1,000 academics who called for an end to ongoing violence in the country’s Southeast in a peace declaration. Oran was one of the signatories of the declaration.

The Ankara 3rd Civil Court of First Instance rejected a TL 10,000 case for damages filed by Oran in March 2016 against Erdoğan for the terms he used in referring to the academics.

The court said the president had the right to express opposing views and criticism in the wake of accusations against the state.

In one speech at the time, Erdoğan accused the academics of being a fifth column of foreign power determined to undermine Turkey’s national security. He also used many insulting words for the academics such as “immoral, vile, disgusting, ignorant and traitor.”

In his plea, Erdoğan cited examples from rulings of the Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights concerning freedom of expression and freedom of thought.

The president said freedom of expression also applies to aggressive, shocking and disturbing ideas and information for the state or a part of the society and that it is impossible to be a democratic society without freedom of expression.

Given the fact that Erdoğan has filed around 2,000 cases against individuals on charges of insulting him since he was elected to the presidency in August 2014, many found his reference to freedom of expression contradictory to the fact that he initiated such a large number of legal actions against people simply because of their critical views about him.

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