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European rights court rejects Turkey’s appeal of opposition leader ruling

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The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has rejected an appeal filed by Turkey regarding the court’s ruling on the violation of freedom of expression of main opposition party leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.

The Strasbourg court ruled in December that Turkey had violated the right to free speech of Kılıçdaroğlu, who was found guilty in 2012 of slandering then-prime minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in two parliament speeches.

Kılıçdaroğlu criticized Erdoğan at the time over a Turkish air force bombing as well as a controversial hydroelectric dam.

Erdoğan sued Kılıçdaroğlu and won, with a court imposing substantial fines that critics said were intended to discourage other opponents from speaking out against the government.

Kılıçdaroğlu filed an application at the ECtHR in 2018, claiming that his right to freedom of expression was violated.

The European court said the Turkish judges “failed to examine the offending remarks within the context and the form in which they had been made.”

“Mr Kılıçdaroğlu had given the speeches as a member of parliament,” it added, and as head of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP). In this connection the court reiterated that, while being precious for everyone, freedom of expression was “particularly important for an elected representative of the people.”

The court also ordered that Turkey pay Kılıçdaroğlu 11,385 euros in pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages.

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