Mümtazer Türköne - “Insulting the Public Official” Trial

Mümtazer Türköne is standing trial for his column dated March 16, 2014 in the now shuttered Zaman newspaper, which was titled “Would it be this bad it were not obligatory”, on charges of “insult via audiovisual or written message” (Turkish Penal Code, Article 125).

In his article, Türköne dwelled upon a speech by the then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Antep. In his speech, Erdoğan had accused Berkin Elvan of being a “terrorist”: On June 16, 2013 Elvan was injured by a pepper gas canister fired by police on his way to buy bread, and passed away on March 11, 2014, after spending 269 days in coma. During the same speech, Erdoğan had also incited the crowd to boo Gülsüm Elvan, Berkin’s mother.

After the publication of the column, Erdoğan filed a complaint against Türköne. However, the prosecutor announced a decision of non-prosecution and did not file a lawsuit. Erdoğan’s lawyers appealed against this decision. Bakırköy 2. Criminal Court of Peace discussed the objection and overturned the decision of non-prosecution on October 14, 2014 on the grounds that “there is evidence pointing to crime and it is a court which should pass judgement on the evidence”.

Upon this decision, prosecutor completed an indictment on November 3, 2014 and requested that Mümtazer Türköne be sentenced to imprisonment of 1 to 2 years for “insulting a public official”. The case began on April 28, 2015.

At the hearing held on January 12, 2016, judge dropped the case against the defendant Mümtazer Türköne on the grounds that the lawsuit for “insulting a public official through the press” had not been filed within the 2-month legal deadline. The judge also ruled that it was not the defendant who had published the column on the newspaper website, and acquitted Türköne.

However, Court of Cassation’s 18. Criminal Chamber overturned the verdict of acquittal, and the trial resumed. The 5. hearing was held on September 11, 2019. Türköne was connected to the hearing from Silivri Prison, via the judiciary videoconferencing system SEGBİS. He indicated that he had penned the article 5 years ago, and asked for time to examine the file and the article he had written back then. The 6. hearing took place on October 15, 2019.

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Mümtazer Türköne

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