Today, ARTICLE 19 submitted an expert opinion to Istanbul’s 13th Court of Serious Crimes on the case of Erol Önderoğlu, Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) Turkey Correspondent; Rasime Şebnem Korur, Director of Turkey Human Rights Foundation; and Ahmet Nesin, Independent journalist; calling for the court to consider international human rights in its judgment, and for the defendants to be acquitted. ARTICLE 19 further calls for charges against all those who participated in the Özgür Gündem solidarity campaign to be dropped and for sentences to be overturned.
All three defendants in the case were charged with “inciting” or “provoking” the commission of a crime in addition to “making propaganda for, legitimating or praising the methods of a terrorist organization”. No judgment was issued in the hearing today due to the absence of defendant Ahmet Nesin, and his arrest warrant was issued. The judgment was postponed until the next hearing on 8 June 2017, where the court will also consider ARTICLE 19’s expert opinion.
The expert opinion outlined ARTICLE 19’s concerns with the legitimacy of charges laid by the Turkish law enforcement against the defendants in this case for exercising their rights to freedom of expression. The case amounts to unlawful restrictions on the right to freedom of expression and the provisions of the Penal Code and the Anti-Terror Law – under which the defendants are charged – are not compatible with international and regional human rights standards.
Under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (“European Convention”) and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (“ICCPR”), Turkey is obliged to ensure that restrictions on freedom of expression, and particular on the freedom of the media, comply with a three-part permissible limitations test: they must be a) in accordance with the law, b) in pursuit of a legitimate aim, and c) necessary in a democratic society.
ARTICLE 19 finds that the relevant provisions of the Penal Code and the Anti-Terror Law fail comprehensively to satisfy this test. Subsequently, we submit that the charges against the defendants violate international human rights standards and jurisprudence related to freedom of expression. In any event, the charges levelled at the defendants are not founded, as they relate to legitimate reportage that the Turkish public has an interest in receiving.