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Turkey’s top court finds rights violation in fine imposed on journalist over 2015 article

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Turkey’s Constitutional Court has ruled that a fine imposed on a Turkish journalist living in exile in Sweden over an article he wrote in 2015 about then-Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoğlu was a violation of his rights, the TR724 news website reported.

Bülent Keneş, the former editor-in-chief of the now-closed English language Today’s Zaman daily, was tried by the Ankara 37th High Criminal Court in 2015 due to his article. The verdict, a fine in the amount of TL 7,080 ($262) for insulting Davutoğlu, was suspended by the court.

Keneş subsequently applied to the Constitutional Court, claiming that he was subjected to a rights violation. On March 29, 2023 the court ruled that his freedom of expression had been violated.

In the piece, titled “Davutoğlu’s Misery,” Keneş criticized the policies of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), saying Davutoğlu had become a supporter of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s “despotic course” and part of “a historical betrayal that is dragging Turkey into disaster” by allowing himself to be stripped his of his ministerial powers.

Keneş used the statement, “We must now openly and unreservedly state that for quite some time, Erdoğan has been the biggest problem for Turkish democracy and the rule of law.”

Erdoğan was first elected president for a five-year renewable term in 2014 by a direct vote under the parliamentary system. Through a referendum in April 2017, Turkey switched from a parliamentary system of governance to an executive presidential system that granted President Erdoğan and his ruling AKP sweeping powers and was criticized for removing constitutional checks and balances, thus leading to a further weakening of Turkish democracy. Critics call the system “one-man rule.”

Keneş, who Turkey accuses of being involved in a 2016 attempt to topple Erdoğan, was the only person Erdoğan identified by name among the dozens of people Ankara wants to be extradited in exchange for approving Sweden’s NATO membership.

Erdoğan described Keneş as a “terrorist” during a news conference in Ankara in November.

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