Ender İmrek - “Publicy Insulting” Trial

Evrensel Daily writer Ender İmrek, wrote an article entitled “Parıl parıl parlıyordu Hermes çanta” on June 29, 2019.

The article was about the bag President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s wife Emine Erdoğan used, which allegedly costs 50 thousand USD.

The article made a comparison between, Canan Kaftancoğlu, Provincial President in Istanbul of Republican People’s Party, who was, at the time, being tried, and Emine Erdoğan.

After the article was published, Emine Erdoğan’s attorney Ahmet Özel filed a complaint.

İrmek, due to the complaint, was summoned to give a statement at Istanbul Yenibosna Police Precinct on October 7, 2019.

The indictment against Evrensel Daily writer Emre İmrek, was completed by Bakırköy Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on December 4, 2019. President Tayyip Erdoğan’s wife Emine Erdoğan was the “complainant” of the three-page-long indictment.

According to the investigation process, as transmitted by the indictment, President Tayyip Erdoğan’s wife Emine Erdoğan made a complaint about the article. The complaint, filed by Erdoğan’s attorney Ahmet Özer, claimed that the article had “damaged her reputation” and “attacked her personal rights”. The article was claimed to be written with the purpose of “insult and provoking people against the client”. It was claimed that the article “aimed to create an adverse perception in public against Emine Erdoğan with these allegations”.

The indictment claimed that the article “had ironically compared Emine Erdoğan, with a completely irrelevant third person (Canan Kaftancıoğlu) in these inconsequential events and claimed that good and plausible virtues the other party had was missing in Emine Erdoğan”. It was claimed that the expressions in the article “were in a manner to belittle Emine Erdoğan”.

The indictment accused İmrek of “publicly insulting through an audio, text or visual message” according to the article 125 of the Turkish Penal Code. He was requested to be sentenced to, from three months 15 days to 2 years four months of imprisonment.

Evrensel Daily writer Ender İmrek’s trial was set to begin with the first hearing at Istanbul Bakırköy 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on April 29, 2020. However the hearing was postponed due to the measures taken agains the “coronavirus” pandemic in Turkey.

Second hearing of the case was held on June 24, 2020. “Complainant” Emine Erdoğan was not present at the hearing. İmrek, in his defence statement, in summary, said the following:

“There is nothing more natural than the fact that a President’s wife carrying a bag worth 50 thousand USD is subject to news and criticism, in a country where fathers are committing suicide for not being able buy school uniforms or bags for their kids, infants are dying of hunger in the arms of their mothers, people are looking for bread in the garbage and some are going to the markets at the end of the day to pick out fruits and vegetables among waste!”

İrmek reminded that the topic, opened at Ekşi Sözlük webpage with the title “Emine Erdoğan’s bag” was restricted to access by a court order. İmrek said, “I am not the only person who is talking about this 50-thousand-USD bag. This bag was talked about in the parliament. When you type Emine Erdoğan Hermes bag in Google, there are over 231 thousand news. Even thought the articles regarding the bag were restricted to access a few days ago, millions of people know about it”.

**Ekşi Sözlük is a blog that contains comments of registered users on any topic or concept.

Istanbul Anatolian 8th Criminal Court of Peace, had ruled for a restriction of access decision regarding six Ekşi Sözlük topics, on June 19, 2020, five days before the hearing.

Judge accepted Emine Erdoğan’s request to take part in the hearing on the grounds of “possibility to be directly affected by the crime”.

İrmek was exempted from the hearings, meaning his obligation to attend the hearings was lifted.

The third hearing of the trial took place on October 8th, 2020. The president of the court did not allow observers to enter the courtroom on the pretext of the measures against the coronavirus pandemic. The president of the court had not changed.

The sued journalist Ender İmrek did not attend the hearing. At the hearing, İmrek was represented by Yıldız İmrek, Devrim Avcı Özkurt, Semih Mutlu, Muhammed Taner Avşar and Ahmet Ergin. The complainant Emine Erdoğan’s lawyers did not attend the hearing. Erdoğan had not attended the second hearing either. The first hearing had been postponed due to the coronavirus.

Yıldız İmrek, the lawyer of Ender İmrek, presented to the court a report drafted by law professors Yaman Akdeniz and Kerem Altıparmak, including data on offenses of insult and defamation. Yıldız İmrek stated the following:

“It is evident that in a country where the vast majority of the population is poor and under the starvation line, it is a right and a responsibility for the press to put forth such criticisms, as the overseer of public interest.

In order for us to speak about “insult”, there must exist phrases and words that clearly violate personal rights and are personally offensive, as indicated before. What kind of phrases? Swearwords, for example.

When the Minister of Interior called CHP chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu “rascal, scumbag”, Ankara Public Prosecutor’s Office considered that these words fell within the scope of the freedom of expression. No investigation was launched.”

Referring to rulings by the Court of Cassation in her defense, İmrek said, “In the statement there is the accusation of ‘insulting by not attributing good and favorable qualifications’. What does this mean? It means that a person is not liked but criticized, or not praised. So, my client is accused of insult, because he did not praise Emine Erdoğan.”

İmrek stated that not praising someone is not tantamount to insulting them. “Such a perspective would mean, ‘You have to praise the authorities, otherwise you are guilty.’ Political criticism is indispensable in democracy. ECHR rulings show that the punishment of criticism has the effect of silencing the society.”

İmrek also explained some Constitutional Court rulings with short quotations. İmrek continued as follows:

“My client’s remarks clearly constitute political criticism. The addressee Emine Erdoğan is a person who has taken on a political position, and my client has put forth a political criticism as a media professional. In the indictment, there is talk of ‘groundless accusations’. What groundless accusations? It is impossible to understand this. Did Emine Erdoğan not wear a Hermes brand bag? There are multiple news confirming it. Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu brought up this issue in the Parliament. So there is nothing groundless here. Even if it were groundless, this would still constitute political criticism. Such a case should not have been opened in the first place. We request the immediate acquittal of our client.”

İmrek’s other lawyers stated, “We agree with the remarks of our colleague”.

With the onset of the Court Year 2020-2021, a previously lifted practice has been reintroduced. Accordingly, prosecutors can once again participate in hearings at the criminal courts of first instance. Their presence in these hearings had been ended in 2011. As such, the prosecutor attended Ender İmrek’s trial.

The hearing prosecutor presented his judicial opinion as to the accusations. Without presenting a judicial justification, the prosecutor stated, “We request that the defendant be sentenced for the offense charged”.

Lawyer İmrek objected to the prosecutor’s presenting a judicial opinion as to the accusations without a justification. She stated, “A prosecutor’s statements must all have a justification. The esteemed court must demand from the prosecutor to present his justification.”

İmrek’s remarks were not taken into account by the court. There was an argument between the judge and lawyer İmrek. Meanwhile, the hearing prosecutor said “You must understand that my judicial opinion provides ample information.” Yıldız İmrek’s request was ignored and she was interrupted. The trial was adjourned. Lawyer Yıldız İmrek requested time to draft the defense against the judicial opinion.

The court gave journalist Ender İmrek and his lawyers additional time for drafting the defense against the judicial opinion.

The fourth hearing of the trial took place on December 2nd, 2020. The panel of judges had not changed. İmrek attended the hearing alongside Devrim Avcı Özkurt and Yıldız İmrek.

The complainant Emine Erdoğan’s lawyers did not attend the hearing. Erdoğan’s lawyers had not attended the second and third hearings either. The first hearing had been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In the second hearing, İmrek presented his defense statement against the judicial opinion where the prosecutor requested that he be sentenced.

İmrek stated that the Hermes bag came back on the agenda when there was talk of boycotting France in Turkey. İmrek indicated that new developments had taken place and added, “Hürriyet Newspaper’s Hande Fırat wrote an article saying that the bag in fact was not an original and that Emine Erdoğan did not like extravagance. This article shows that Mrs. Erdoğan and her family felt some public pressure and felt the need to explain the bag issue.” İmrek indicated that there were changes on the justice front as well: “Minister of Justice stated that judges should reach a verdict based on the file, and without coming under any influence.”

İmrek argued that this case should not have been filed in the first place, and added, “There is no insult. The charge of ‘insult by not attributing good qualifications’ has gone down in law history. I demand my acquittal.”

İmrek’s lawyer Yıldız İmrek stated that the indictment should never have been accepted in the first place: “Even if it were accepted, the court should have acquitted my client at the first hearing. However, this was not done; moreover, the prosecutor presented his judicial opinion in the previous hearing, without even providing a legal justification. However, the prosecutor is obliged to provide a justification.” Remind that she had criticized the lack of a justification, Yıldız İmrek said, “We want to emphasize that in a proper legal system, a prosecutor cannot charge anyone with a crime through simple speculation,” and continued as follows:

“Thereby it is claimed that, not praising her is a crime. So the indictment reaches two conclusions. First, Emine Erdoğan cannot be compared to anyone. Second, it is mandatory to praise her, and not praising her is a crime. This is not acceptable. In my client’s article, there is not a single word of insult. It is obvious that this article falls within the scope of freedom of press and expression.”

Citing rulings by the Constitutional Court, Court of Cassation and European Court of Human Rights, Yıldız İmrek said, “This case has been filed under the pressure of an influential political figure who filed a complaint, and the prosecutor has seen this like a directive that he must follow. The article falls within the scope of freedom of expression and my client must be acquitted immediately.”

Lawyer Devrim Avcı Özkurt stated that the elements of the crime were not present. Avcı Özkurt said, “The prosecutor states that there are derogatory statements in the indictment. However, he does not say which statements these are. He attributes a crime by sheer speculation and interpretation. The accusations put forward are based on the interpretations of the prosecutor.”

The hearing prosecutor said, “I request that the defendant be sentenced for the charge in question”. As such, the prosecutor again expressed his request without presenting any justification, for which he had been criticized by the defense lawyers in the previous hearing.

The president of the court announced the verdict. İmrek was acquitted. The verdict was based on the argument that “elements of crime were not present.”



Ender İmrek

Contact: pressinarrest@gmail.com

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