Journalist DefenseNews

Appeals Court overturns ruling rejecting Yücel’s compensation request

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A Turkish Appellate court has overturned a lower court decision that rejected a compensation claim filed by Die Welt journalist Deniz Yücel on the grounds that his year-long imprisonment in Turkey has been unlawful. 

On 25 September 2018, the 17th High Criminal Court rejected Yücel’s request of 2,980,000 Turkish lira in damages for “his unjust and unlawful imprisonment.” The court said it was rejecting the claim because the main trail where Yücel is accused of “conducting propaganda on behalf of a terrorist organization repeatedly” and “inciting the public to hatred and hostility” on the basis of several of his articles published in Die Welt, has not yet been concluded. Yücel denies both charges.  

The decision was appealed by his lawyer Veysel Ok on 27 September 2018. 

On 8 May, the 19th Istanbul Regional Court of Justice overturned the ruling, saying that under provisions of the Criminal Procedures Code (CMK), compensation claims for imprisonment can be filed within a year after a potential conviction however rulings can still be made regarding pre-trial detention and in such cases the merits of an ongoing case are irrelevant. The Regional Court has said that the lower court should have reviewed the compensation claim before reaching a decision and establish whether there is a condition whether there is a situation that requires compensation by evaluating the main case. The appeals court has sent the decision back to the lower court for the case to be heard one more time.

A date has yet to be set for the retrial in the compensation case. 

In response to the overruling, Yücel’s lawyer Veysel Ok stated: “The compensation case we initiated regarding Deniz’s unlawful detention was rejected without being reviewed. We appealed this decision at a higher court, asserting that rejection without reviewing the case was unlawful. The appeals court has accepted our demands.”

Ok added that this is a precedent for all imprisoned journalist in Turkey. “This means that journalists can file compensation claims regarding the injustices they have suffered without waiting for a verdict in their ongoing cases.”

“Deniz’s case for compensation will be heard again and we hope that the damages incurred by his imprisonment will be compensated for.”

Verdict not necessary for evaluating compensation claims

In its decision overturning the rejection, the Regional Court stated: “There is no obligation for a verdict regarding the main case regarding several types for compensation listed under CMK 141, and as such in claims filed for these types of claims, there is no need for the ongoing legal process to be completed. For example, the period for pre-trial detention is clearly stated in the law and establishing whether a defendant has been brought before a judge within the time period laid out in the law has no relation to the merits of the case and there is no reason to wait for a verdict in the main case for making a decision regarding such a compensation claim.”

The panel of judges unanimously decided that the court has been wrong in rejecting Yücel’s compensation claim on the grounds that no verdict has been reached in the trial and asked for a retrial. The 17th High Criminal Court will now hear Yücel’s application once again. 

Die Welt journalist Deniz Yücel (44) was kept in prison in Turkey for a year without an indictment before his release on 16 February 2018. 

The fourth hearing in the main case where he is accused of terrorist propaganda will be heard on 16 July.