Engin Korkmaz - “Insulting the President in Successive Intervals” Trial

A denunciation was made to the Ministry of Family and Social Policies against chief clerk in charge and columnist of Antalya Körfez Daily Engin Korkmaz in April 2018. The denunciation was sent to the Antalya Police Precinct by the Ministry.

Anaya Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation against Korkmaz. Korkmaz’s Facebook and Twitter posts were inspected. Korkmaz was accused of “insulting the President” through two of his social media posts. Subject matter posts were about the attempted military coup on July 15, 2016.

According to the indictment Korkmaz, in his defence statement during the investigation process stated that he had no aim or intention of “insulting the president” and that his posts were within the scope of freedom of thought and expression.

Korkmaz stated that it was not right to launch an investigation against him two-and-a-half years after the posts and stated that he did not regret his posts but he deleted them three months ago, believing that he was wrong.

According to the Turkish Penal Code, in order to open a lawsuit against an individual for the accusation of “insulting the President” a permission from the Ministry of Justice is required. Necessary ministerial permission was granted on April 8, 2019.

The indictment against Korkmaz was completed on May 9, 2019. President Tayyip Erdoğan was the “complainant” of the indictment.

The indictment lined 2 posts shared from Korkmaz’s Facebook and Twitter accounts on July 16 and July 17, 2016. One of the posts, which was shared right after the attempted military coup on July 15, 2016 was put in the indictment as follows:

“I have never seen such a set-up. The woman who read the Coup Declaration on the state television TRT said her hands were tied and they were kept hostages for hours. RTE is the hero again. Thievery, shamelessness are covered up. Constitution is in the pocket. We will be put in the history books as the country that experienced a fake coup, and added, we live in a time where those who chop heads are calling for democracy. We are living an abdication of reason.”

It was stated that the other subject matter publication was quoting a post, made from a Twitter account with President Tayyip Erdoğan’s name, with the comment, “revolve slower, people can’t keep up”.

The indictment accused Korkmaz of “insulting the President” according to the article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code. He was requested to be sentenced to from one year to four years. However the indictment claimed that the crime of “insulting the President” was “committed publicly”. On that ground, the requested sentence against Korkmaz was requested to be increased by a sixth, according to the second paragraph of the article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code. The indictment then claimed that the crime of “publicly insulting the President” was “committed in a successive manner”. Therefore, the requested sentence against Korkmaz was requested to be increased by, from a quarter to three quarters, according to the article 43 of the Turkish Penal Code. Thus in total, Korkmaz was requested to be sentenced to, from one year five months 15 days to eight years two months of imprisonment.

Trial of Korkmaz, started with the first hearing at Antalya 19th Criminal Court of First Instance on November 20, 2019. No one, including journalist Korkmaz took part in the hearing. Hearing was adjourned.

Second hearing was held on March 11, 2020. Journalist Engin Korkmaz was present alongside his attorney Tuncay Koç. Korkmaz presented his defence statement in this hearing.

Korkmaz stated that the posts were made by him however he “had no intention to insult” and said “these are posts I have made within the scope of the freedom of expression. I am obliged to inform the public. Therefore I do not believe these include any insult. I deny the accusations”.

Attorney Tuncay Koç, stated that the person who made the denunciation against Korkmaz was tried and convicted of the crime of “calumny”. Koç stated that the investigation was launched after this persons denunciation and added, “my client’s posts do not include any criminal factors. Client’s phrase ‘revolve slower, people can’t keep up’ is within the scope of freedom of thought, this is a political criticism. Therefore I request my clients acquittal”.

Attorney Koç requested additional time to present precedents from European Court of Human Rights (AİHM) decisions. The request was granted. Hearing was adjourned.

Third hearing of the case was held on September 9, 2020. Korkmaz was present at the hearing alongside his attorney Tuncay Koç. Judge did not allow anyone in the courtroom except the journalist and his attorney, within the scope of the measures taken against coronavirus pandemic.

Korkmaz stated that he had no intention to commit a crime. He accepted the annunciation of the sentence to be deferred in the event of a possible conviction.

Tunny Koç, Korkmaz’s attorney, stated that “the investigation was launched the denunciation about FETÖ membership”. He also stated that the person who made the denunciation was convicted of “calumny”. He said that they will present a more detailed defence argument at the next hearing.

An old practice, which was previously cancelled, was brought back to the courtroom as 2020-2021 Court Year started. According to that, prosecutors could now take part in the trials at criminal courts of first instance. This hearing too, was held in the presence of the prosecutor. However the prosecutor stated that “he was on sick leave as he had come in contact with a person who has tested positive for coronavirus”. He said he could not have a detailed look at the files. He requested the case files to be sent to the prosecutor’s office in order to prepare the opinion as to the accusations.

Court granted additional time to the prosecutor in order to inspect the files and prepare an opinion. It was also ruled that the verdict reached against the person who made the denunciation, causing the lawsuit, was to be added to the case files.

Fourth hearing of the case was set to to January 15, 2021.

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