ECHR finds Turkey guilty of violating free speech rights of man sentenced for Newroz speech

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that Turkey violated the freedom of expression of a man who was sentenced to prison in 2008 for making a speech during Newroz celebrations in the southern province of Osmaniye.

This file photo shows participants attending a Newroz celebration in Istanbul in 2019.

Duvar English

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has found Turkey guilty of violating the right to free speech of a man who was sentenced to one year in jail in 2008 over a speech he made during Newroz celebrations.

The case concerns criminal proceedings Turkish authorities brought against Halil İmrek, who was the secretary of the local branch of the Labor Party (EMEP) in 2006. İmrek was remanded in custody at the time on charges of “disseminating propaganda in favor of a terrorist organisation” for making a speech during 2016 Newroz celebrations in the southern province of Osmaniye.

After spending three months in prison, İmrek was released in July 2006. On Sept. 16, 2008, he was found guilty as charged and sentenced to one year’s imprisonment. The Court of Cassation upheld that judgment in January 2012.

Halil İmrek
Halil İmrek

İmrek then took his case to the ECHR, saying that he had been prosecuted on account of the political views he had expressed at the event. In a ruling on Nov. 10, the ECHR found Turkey guilty of violating İmrek's freedom of expression and ordered the country to pay 5,000 euros in compensation to the applicant.

İmrek said that the Turkish court's sentence was against the freedom of speech and democracy principles. “The speech I made in Newroz celebrations in 2006 was a political speech that was within the limits of criticism, as a representative of an opponent party. There were no elements of crime in my speech. Also, there was no insult against any office or institution,” İmrek said.

“The party which I am a member of is a party that defends labor, democracy, peace and the co-existence of people in an equal and brotherly way. But my speech was not evaluated within the limits of freedom of expression and I was sentenced,” he said.