Top Turkish appeals court terminates politician's party membership for 'insulting' Erdoğan

Turkey's Court of Cassation has terminated the political party membership of Labor Party Vice Chair Umut Yeğin for “insulting” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The top court based its decision on the 1926 Turkish Penal Code, which is not currently in force.

Umut Yeğin is seen in this photo.

Duvar English

Turkey's Court of Cassation, the country's highest court of appeals, imposed a political ban on Labor Party (EMEP) Vice Chair Umut Yeğin, which resulted in the termination of his membership in the party, daily Evrensel reported on Dec. 21.

The court based its decision on a conviction that Yeğin received on charges of “insulting” President Tayyip Erdoğan. Although the laws do not entitle the judiciary to give such a decision, the court, in its decision, made a reference to the 1926 Turkish Penal Code, which is not currently in force.

A court in the eastern province of Van had sentenced Yeğin to 11 months and 20 days in prison for shouting the slogan of “Murderer Erdoğan” during a protest held in the aftermath of the Oct. 10, 2015 Ankara Massacre. This prison had been later turned into a monetary fine.

The Court of Cassation said that Yeğin's conviction barred him from being a member of any party as per the Political Parties Law's Article 11.b, however, the relevant article does not make a reference to charges of “insult” against the President. Crimes of massacre and crimes against humanity are the only crimes indicated in the relevant article.

When Yeğin appealed the Court of Cassation's decision, the court this time made a reference to the Turkish Penal Code of 1926.

Prof. Levent Köker said that a law that is not currently in force cannot be applied to anyone and that any conviction based on “insulting” the President contradicts the European Convention on Human Rights.

“Are we going to be treated according to articles that are currently in force in Turkey or according to old laws? This is a scandal,” he said.

Yeğin also slammed the Court of Cassation's political ban on him, saying that this decision attempts to intimidate people from criticizing Erdoğan.

“Today's decision of ban on my party membership is not independent of policies run at the time. They are trying to say, 'Erdoğan is untouchable, cannot be criticized',” he said.

Meanwhile, it is alleged that the Court of Cassation will continue with its policy of banning people from party membership should they receive a conviction for “insulting” the President. If the court goes through with this, many renowned politicians might be banned from politics.

According to the Justice Ministry data, between 2014-2020, a total of 160,169 investigations were launched, daily Evrensel said. During this period, 38,608 people stood trial based on these charges – 322 of whom were aged between 12-14, 785 were aged between 15-17; and 358 were foreign nationals. A total of 12,881 people received various penalties, 3,625 of whom were given jail terms. Among the 3,625 people, there were 10 children.