Turkey: Erol Özkoray convicted of criminal defamation

English PEN shares PEN International’s concern at the news that writer, journalist and publisher Erol Özkoray has been sentenced for defaming President Erdoğan

On 23 September 2014, writer, journalist and publisher Erol Özkoray was handed a suspended sentence for defaming the current President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The charge relates to Özkoray’s 2013 book ‘Bireyselleşme ve demokrasi: Gezi Fenomeni’ (‘Individualisation and Democracy: The Gezi Phenomenon). The book, published when Erdoğan was prime minister, includes images of anti-Erdoğan graffiti and references to slogans and banners from the Gezi Park protests. Prosecutors argued that these could not be considered as being ‘within the limits of freedom of expression or the press’ whilst Ferah Yıldız, Erdoğan’s lawyer, claimed the book was not of ‘public interest’.

On 23 September, the 2nd Istanbul Criminal Court of First Instance judged Özkoray to be guilty of criminal defamation by reproducing these pictures, slogans and banners in print and handed him a suspended sentence of 11 months and 20 days in prison. Neither Özkoray nor his lawyer were present at the hearing on the grounds of ill health. Özkoray will have to serve his suspended sentence if he is convicted of criminal defamation again in the next five years.

Özkoray’s conviction comes in the aftermath of several  highly publicised defamation cases brought by Erdoğan against some of his most prominent critics in the media. Writers Ahmet Altan, Can Dündar and İhsan Eliaçık are among those that Erdoğan has sought to have prosecuted for their writings or social media posts.

PEN calls for the suspended sentence against Özkoray to be lifted immediately and for defamation to be decriminalised in Turkey as a matter of urgency.

TAKE ACTION

Send appeals to the Turkish authorities: 

  • Protesting the conviction of Erol Özkoray and the heavy prison sentence he faces if convicted of criminal defamation again in the next five years;
  • Calling for defamation to be decriminalised in Turkey;
  • Reminding the Turkish authorities of their obligation to respect the right to freedom of expression under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Turkey is a state party.

Appeals to:

Minister of Justice Bekir Bozdağ
Milli Müdafaa Caddesi No: 22
Bakanlıklar
06659 Kızılay
Ankara, Turkey
Fax: +90 312 419 33 70
Email: bekir.bozdag@tbmm.gov.trozelkalem@adalet.gov.tr
Twitter: @bybekirbozdag

His Excellency Abdurrahman Bilgiç
43 Belgrave Square
London
SW1X 8PA
Fax: +44 20 73 93 00 66, +44 20 73 93 92 13
Email: embassy.london@mfa.gov.tr

[ecampaign ‘to=bekir.bozdag@tbmm.gov.tr‘ subject=”In support of Erol Özkoray”]

Dear Minister

I am writing to you as a supporter of English PEN, the founding centre of the international association of writers, to condemn the sentence handed down to writer, journalist and publisher Erol Özkoray.

According to PEN’s information, on 23 September 2014 Erol Özkoray was handed a suspended sentence of 11 months and 20 days in prison for defaming President Erdoğan in his 2013 book ‘Bireyselleşme ve demokrasi: Gezi Fenomeni’ (‘Individualisation and Democracy: The Gezi Phenomenon). Özkoray will have to serve his suspended sentence if he is convicted of criminal defamation again in the next five years.

I believe the sentence to be in violation of Özkoray’s right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Turkey is a state party. I therefore join PEN in strongly protesting the conviction and calling for the suspended sentence to be lifted immediately. I also join PEN in calling for defamation to be decriminalised in Turkey as a matter of urgency.

I would welcome your comments on my appeal.

Yours sincerely

[/ecampaign]

Please let us know of any action you take by emailing cat@englishpen.org

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