An Istanbul court has dismissed the case for damages against law professor Yaman Akdeniz brought by Serhat Albayrak.
Serhat Albayrak is the head of pro-government Turkuvaz Media Group and the brother of Berat Albayrak, former finance minister and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son-in-law.
Albayrak sued Akdeniz when he shared a tweet showing that access to news linking Albayrak to the “Paradise Papers” scandal was blocked. Albayrak and several other individuals linked to the Turkish government, including former Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım and his family, were implicated in the scandal, which revealed the offshore accounts of thousands of the world’s most powerful individuals.
The “Paradise Papers” were the name given to the over 13 million electronic documents leaked to German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and published in 2017. The records revealed the offshore accounts of some of the world’s most powerful people, including Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles, former US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, and the President of Colombia. Then-Prime Minister Binali Yılırım and his sons, as well as Serhat and Berat Albayrak were also named in the papers.
Reporting on the scandal was barred in Turkey and a series of articles based on the documents written by Pelin Ünker of daily Cumhuriyet was criminalized. Ünker was sued by the individuals mentioned in her articles, including the Yıldırım and Albayrak families, and was sentenced to one year, one month, and fifteen days in prison in 2019. Her sentence was later canceled, but she was still forced to pay an 8,860 Turkish Lira fine.
Earlier this year, Professor Akdeniz shared a series of tweets showing that news related to the Paradise Papers and the Albayrak brothers published by the Diken news website, had been censored. In May 2021, he tweeted about a piece published by Canan Coşkun about the papers, encouraging readers to read the article quickly because Serhat Albayrak had already filed a motion to have the piece censored.
Serhat Albayrak then sued Professor Akdeniz for 100,000 Turkish Lira (a little over $11,500) in immaterial damages, arguing that by sharing the details of the censorship order filed by Albayrak in court, he was violating his individual rights. Albayrak’s lawyers in court argued that Akdeniz had personally attacked him in his tweet.
In his defense, Professor Akdeniz argued that tweeting about a lawsuit was not a personal attack. Further, as a lawyer and freedom of expression advocate, he said he was simply exercising his rights as a citizen and a social media user. After hearing both statements, the judge at the Istanbul 7th Court of First Instance on Sept. 23 decided to dismiss the case.
Speaking to online news portal Bianet after the hearing, Professor Akdeniz said that the lawsuit had been about intimidation and keeping the public from accessing critical information.
“The primary purpose of lawsuits pursued by abusing legal proceedings is not to win the case but to intimidate and silence people who inform the public, especially journalists and academics like me, about issues that should particularly concern them,” he said.