Turkey's top court overturns jail term of university employee for comments on news articles

The Turkish Constitutional Court has ruled that a local court violated the rights of a public university employee by sentencing him to 14 months in jail over his comments posted on online news stories about the rector's assistant.

This file photo shows the building of the Turkish Constitutional Court.

Duvar English

The Turkish Constitutional Court has ruled that a jail sentence given to an executive of the Sivas Cumhuriyet University over his online comments about the rector's assistant violated his freedom of expression.

The top court said that although the executive's comments were “rude,” the 14 months prison sentence constituted as “non-proportional intervention” as there were “other options of intervention that are lighter in the judiciary system.”

The case concerns Oğuz Demirkaya's 2014 comments to three online news pieces which were about the then assistant rector.

The assistant rector then filed a lawsuit against Demirkaya on charges of “insult” and won the case. Demirkaya later took the conviction to an appeals court, but the higher court upheld the lower court's prison sentence of 14 months, which led Demirkaya to file an application at the Constitutional Court in 2018.

Demirkaya said that his comments were “humorous” and did not include any elements of “insult.” He also said that his dismissal from public office as a result of the conviction violated his freedom of expression, the right to a fair trial and respect to private as well as family life.

In its decision on May 18, the Constitutional Court ruled for a retrial of the case, saying that the local court did not explain why the relevant remarks were considered to be “insult.”

The top court also ruled that Demirkaya receive 13,500 liras in non-pecuniary damages as a result of the violation of his freedom of expression.

The case file has been sent back to the Sivas 2nd Penal Court of First Instance for the retrial process to start.