The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ordered Turkey to pay 4,000 euros in total to two Turkish nationals for violating their right to freedom of expression.
The case concerns Özgür Söylemez and Süleyman Yurtdaş who were previously fined by a Turkish court for shouting the slogan of “Bijî Serok Apo” (Kurdish for ‘Long Live President Apo’) in support of the imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah Öcalan, Mezapotamya news agency reported on Dec. 5. The PKK is considered as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
In 2008, Söylemez and Yurtdaş participated in a press meeting criticizing the Turkish authorities’ move to close the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) in the country. (The party was closed a year later on charges of having links to the PKK). On Nov. 4, 2008, a lawsuit was filed against Söylemez and Yurtdaş on allegations of “praising the crime and criminal.” At the end of the relevant judiciary process, on Nov. 8, 2009, Yurtdaş was imposed a punitive fine of 500 Turkish Liras, whereas Söylemez 600 liras, without having a right to appeal their case to a higher Turkish court.
As a result of this process, Yurtdaş and Söylemez on Jan. 15, 2010 applied to the European Court of Human Rights. Nine years later, on Nov. 19, 2019, the top Europe rights court said in a ruling that Turkey had violated the Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which provides the right to freedom of expression, regarding the case of Söylemez and Yurtdaş.
The court also said in its ruling that the Turkish authorities’ preventing Söylemez and Yurtdaş from taking their case to an appeal court in the country was a further “violation.”
Söylemez and Yurtdaş’s lawyer Barış Yıldırım said that upon the ECHR’s decision, they will apply to the Turkish courts again, with the demand that the case be retried.
Söylemez also commented on the issue, saying that although he found the ECHR’s decision as a “positive step,” there are thousands of people in Turkey who suffer from violations of freedom of speech and opinion.
“In recent years, numerous rights violations have taken place in Turkey. Especially in terms of freedom of speech and opinion, we are facing very serious limitations and oppression. There are thousands of people who have suffered like us. There are thousands of cases that have not yet reached the ECHR since domestic legal remedies have not been yet exhausted,” Söylemez was quoted as saying by Mezapotamya news agency.
“Also, a case is finalized 10 years later. 10 years is a very long time for a human life. It is also a negative issue that the handling of such important cases, their analysis and their settlement take such a long time,” he said.