İstanbul – School teacher Ayşe Çelik had called a Turkish talk show on 8 January 2016 while the military blockade and conflict in Diyarbakır’s Sur district were still ongoing and said “Don’t let kids die” on live TV. Shortly after this broadcast, a criminal investigation was launched against Çelik for “terrorist propaganda” charges and she was convicted as a result of the trial. After an appellate court upheld her sentence, Çelik was imprisoned. Shortly after Çelik entered prison with her newborn, the Constitutional Court reviewed her individual application and ruled that her right to freedom of expression was violated. Çelik was then released from prison.
Following this ruling, the Constitutional Court sent the case-file over to Bakırköy 2nd High Criminal Court for the case to be reopened. First hearing of the reopened trial was held on June 26th, 2019 and Çelik demanded her acquittal.
Çelik’s lawyer Ramazan Demir stated the following in his defence statement:
“Although we do not agree with every statement in the Constitutional Court’s decision, it is a very significant judgement for our legal system because this is the first positive judgement regarding ‘terrorist propaganda’ offence since the court began to accept individual applications. The only pieces of evidence in the case-file against my client are her statements. You convicted my client for expressing her opinions. In return, the Constitutional Court convicted your court. We’ve grown tired of repeating what ‘making propaganda on behalf of a terrorist propaganda’ in fact is. But we couldn’t explain it to you. That’s why the Constitutional Court reached this judgement, to explain what terrorist propaganda is to all lower courts who keep convicting individuals for this crime. That’s why I say that ‘they have convicted your decision.’
Constitutional Court judgements are binding but in our professional lives we have encountered statements like ‘I don’t recognize the Constitutional Court decision’ from lower courts. For instance, the Şahin Alpay decision. At this point, I’d like to emphasize that the Constitutional Court decision is binding and shall be obeyed.
Since we can’t go back in time, it’s impossible to eradicate all the repercussions of my client’s conviction, especially when the time she spent behind bars is taken into consideration. We demand my client’s immediate acquittal because she stands trial for her opinions, which are protected under the constitution per the Higher Court’s judgement.”
When asked about his opinion as to the accusations, public prosecutor Talip Kalkan noted that the Constitutional Court judgement shall be obeyed and requested schoolteacher Ayşe Çelik’s acquittal.
The court reached a verdict during the first hearing and ruled that the Constitutional Court decision shall be obeyed and decided to acquit Çelik. The court also noted that Çelik could file a complaint for compensation and reparations due to her unlawful detention. Following the hearing, Ayşe Çelik gave the following statement to the press:
“I’d like to thank everyone who was on my side and those who adopted democratic politics as their compass. There are over 700 infant inmates behind bars. I will feel liberated when I hear that infants are united with their mothers. We won by resisting, not by begging. I’ve always stood behind what I said. I repeat it now: ‘Don’t let kids die, don’t let mothers cry, don’t let any harm come to a child.’”
What had happened?
School teacher Ayşe Çelik called a Turkish talk show called Beyaz Show on January 8th, 2016 and said “Don’t let kids die” on live TV. Following this broadcast, a criminal prosecution was launched against Çelik where she was accused of “making propaganda on behalf of a terrorist organization.” The court announced its verdict on October 2nd, 2017 and Çelik was sentenced to 1 year and 3 months in prison.
Following this conviction, Çelik had to enter Diyarbakır Closed Prison with her 6-month old infant. Following the Constitutional Court’s ruling that her freedom of expression was violated, Çelik was released from prison on May 10th, 2019.
The Constitutional Court’s Ayşe Çelik decision is a legal precedent for all individual applications filed by people who are convicted for “terrorist propaganda.” The judgement was mentioned in many Academics for Peace hearings since then. Most recently, academic Noemi Levy Aksu’s lawyer mentioned the decision during a hearing, to which İstanbul 27th High Criminal Court’s presiding judge Taner Keskin replied: “That’s the Higher Court’s shame.”