The Strasbourg Court held that, having regard to its findings under Article 5/1 and Article 10, it was not necessary to separately examine Aksoy’s complaint under Article 18
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) issued its judgment concerning journalist Murat Aksoy’s application on 13 April 2021, finding violations of Article 5/1 (right to liberty and security) and Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Aksoy was one of 28 journalists who stood trial on “coup” and “terror” charges in the case publicly known as the “FETÖ media trial” over alleged ties with the Fethullah Gülen movement, which the Turkish government accuses of staging the failed 15 July 2016 coup. Aksoy was arrested several weeks after the coup attempt. He was released pending trial after spending nearly 14 months behind bars. At the end of the “FETÖ media trial,” in 2018, the trial court sentenced Aksoy to 2 years and 1 month in prison for “aiding a terrorist organization without being its member” (Article 220/7 of the Turkish Penal Code).
In its Chamber judgment, the ECtHR held by a majority of 6 votes to 1 that Aksoy’s detention violated his right to liberty and security (Article 5/1) and freedom of expression (Article 10).
By a majority of 4 votes to 3, the Court held that there had been no violation of Article 5/4 (inability to access investigation file).
The Court found that there had been no plausible grounds to suspect Aksoy of committing a criminal offence. Therefore, the fact of remanding him in custody had breached his right to freedom and security and had constituted an interference with his right to freedom of expression which was not prescribed by law.
It also found that, even though Aksoy had not enjoyed unlimited access to the evidence in the file, he had obtained sufficient knowledge of the content of those items which had been of crucial importance for the purpose of effectively challenging the lawfulness of his pre-trial detention when he had been questioned by the competent authorities, namely the investigators and Justice of the Peace, who had put questions to him on this subject.
The ECtHR noted that the Constitutional Court had found that Aksoy had been remanded in custody without it being sufficiently shown that there was any strong suspicion of an offence having been committed, thus entailing a breach of Article 19 of the Constitution. It had further found that Aksoy’s pre-trial detention for his remarks had also constituted a breach of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of the press within the meaning of Articles 26 and 28 of the Constitution.
However, the ECtHR found that the sums awarded to Aksoy by the Constitutional Court had been manifestly insufficient in view of the circumstances of the case and noted that in spite of the payment by way of reparation for his complaints under Article 5/1 and 5/3 and Article 10, Aksoy could still claim to be a victim within the meaning of Article 34 (right of individual application) of the Convention.
The Court found that Aksoy’s complaint under Article 5/4 (right to a speedy decision on the lawfulness of detention) and in particular on the duration of the proceedings in the Constitutional Court was “manifestly ill-founded.”
The Court held that, having regard to its findings under Article 5/1 and Article 10 of the Convention, it was not necessary to separately examine Aksoy’s complaint under Article 18 (limitation on use of restrictions on rights) of the Convention.
The Court held that Turkey was to pay Aksoy 11,500 euros in respect of non-pecuniary damage and 3,175 euros in respect of costs and expenses.
Further information on the ECtHR’s Murat Aksoy judgment can be found here.
Further information on the case against Murat Aksoy is available here.