İHD Co-Chair Türkdoğan was on trial for “insulting a public official” upon a complaint filed by Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu
ALTAN SANCAR, ANKARA
The second hearing of the trial of lawyer and Human Rights Association (İHD) Co-Chair Öztürk Türkdoğan on charges of “insulting a public official” upon a complaint filed by the Minister of the Interior Süleyman Soylu was held at the 60th Criminal Court of First Instance of Ankara on 27 June 2022.
Türkdoğan and his attorneys were present at the hearing, which was monitored by P24. The complainant Minister of the Interior Süleyman Soylu’s lawyer excused themselves from attending the hearing, which was attended by a large audience, including human rights advocates and representatives of civil society organizations.
At the hearing which commenced after identification of relevant parties, the prosecutor restated their final opinion as to the charges presented at the hearing on May 11th 2022 and demanded Türkdoğan to be punished of the alleged crime.
“Criticism, not defamation”
Denying the accusations, Türkdoğan stated that he did not agree with the prosecutor’s opinion. He pointed out that neither the initial indictment nor the prosecutor’s opinion were clear on which part of his statement in 2018 constituted defamation, insisting that the statement had been critical. Emphasizing that Soylu was responsible for the security of everyone in the country, Türkdoğan said, “We criticized a statement by the Minister of the Interior who is responsible for the security of all of us. I do not think it constitutes a crime.” He then requested his acquittal.
Türkdoğan’s attorney Kerem Altıparmak also stated that neither the indictment nor the prosecutor’s opinion stated which elements of the statement in question constituted defamation. In his statement to the court, Altıparmak emphasized that according to its Constitution, the rule of the law applies in Turkey, and added: “The basic element that distinguishes the states with the rule of the law from states where it does not apply is that people can find out what they are being accused of and can defend themselves. The criminal charges in the document were copy pasted. The prosecution may not have liked our defense, but it cannot produce such an opinion according to the provisions of the Constitution. This is not my personal opinion; this is according to the Supreme Court of Appeals. Which expression in the statement constitutes defamation, and on what grounds? The prosecution bears the burden of evidence. They have not produced evidence; they’re just showing us the statement.”
Altıparmak requested his client to be acquitted and said, “Any sentencing will constitute a severe violation of the right to a fair trial.”
Türkdoğan’s other lawyer Emrah Şeyhanlıoğlu drew attention to some details in Altıparmak’s statement, saying: “Let alone investigation of concrete evidence, we don’t even have a concrete accusation. Objective criteria apply to insult cases. There must be an action that constitutes an affront. Telling a judge that they cannot run a fair trial may be hurtful, but it does not constitute a crime. Had the prosecution worked a little bit harder, they could have found far harsher statements by the İHD. Once this statement finds its way to the European Court of Human Rights, it will not even be considered a criticism, it will be considered a statement of opinion. Given its subject matter, this statement is not strong enough, not adequately critical. We request the court to rule for the acquittal of my client.”
Asked for his final statement after the defense statements, Türkdoğan said that as there was nothing that constituted a crime, there could be no trial to prosecute it either.
Announcing its verdict at the end of the hearing, the court ruled to acquit Türkdoğan on grounds that no elements of the alleged crime had materialized.
About the case
Minister of the Interior Süleyman Soylu made a public statement at a meeting on combating drugs held in Ankara on 3 January 3 2018 and said the feet of drugs suspects should be broken.
In a statement titled “İçişleri Bakanı Süleyman Soylu ile İlgili Zorunlu Açıklama” (A Necessary Statement on Minister of the Interior Süleyman Soylu), the İHD had criticized Soylu’s statements and said “Süleyman Soylu’s approach has until now not been criticized by his party or government, meaning it is endorsed by them. Therefore, we think we are facing government policy in the person of Süleyman Soylu.”
Because of the statement, a court case had been filed against Türkdoğan on charges of “insulting a public official”. The first hearing of the trial was held on 11 May 2022, when the prosecutor had demanded Türkdoğan to be sentenced.