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Mocking Erdogan on Facebook no reason to jail man, court says

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers his weekly speech to members of the parliament on October 23, 2018, in Ankara, Turkey. (Depo Photos/Zuma Press/TNS)
October 21, 2021

Turkey unfairly detained and convicted a man for sharing satirical Facebook posts mocking the country’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the European Court of Human Rights ruled.

Locking up Vedat Sorli for more than two months before his trial and then handing him a suspended sentence in 2017 of nearly one year were clear violations of his rights to freedom of expression, the tribunal said in a decision released on Tuesday.

The detention “had no justification” and the subsequent punishment “inevitably had a chilling effect on the willingness of the person concerned to express his or her views on matters of public interest,” judges at the court in Strasbourg, France ruled.

Sorli in 2014 had shared a post showing a caricature of Erdogan, depicted in female dress, kissing then U.S. President Barack Obama. A second post, from 2016, included photos of Erdogan and the former prime minister of Turkey with comments critical of their rule.

The Turkish presidency’s press office wasn’t immediately available for comment.

The case is a reminder of the risks for Facebook users in countries with strict rules on public criticism of leaders and monarchs. His appeal to the Turkish Assize Court and then its Constitutional Court were both rejected.

Insulting the president carries a prison sentence of as long as four years under the Turkish law.

Turkey was ordered to pay 7,500 euros ($8,745) in damages to Sorli.

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