Journalist Deniz Yücel's been fined for ‘insulting a public official’

Journalist Deniz Yücel's been fined for ‘insulting a public official’
The seventh hearing of the trial where PEN Germany’s President and Die Welt correspondent Deniz Yücel, whom MLSA represents in court, faces “insulting a public official” charge over a 2019 tweet  was held today in the İstanbul 24th Criminal Court of First Instance. The court sentenced Yücel for “insulting a public official” and imposed a punitive fine on the journalist. The hearing in the Çağlayan Courthouse started approximately three hours late. Journalist Deniz Yücel who lives abroad did not attend the hearing and was represented by his lawyers Veysel Ok and Erselan Aktan. The representatives of the German Consulate in İstanbul also monitored the hearing.

Lawyer Veysel Ok: Before your judgment today, we must tell you who Deniz Yücel is and why he is on trial

The prosecutor was the first to take the floor. He reiterated his final opinion, which he submitted to the court on November 30, 2021 and in which he requested that Yücel be sentenced for insulting complainant Hasan Yılmaz arguing that Yücel's social media post offended the honor and the dignity of the complainant. MLSA’s Co-Director lawyer Veysel Ok took the floor after the prosecutor and began his statement by telling “Your Honor, before you pass down your judgment today, we must tell you who Deniz Yücel is and why he is on trial.” The judge, however, interrupted lawyer Ok at this point and said “You told us about him before, stick to the indictment for your defense.” Continuing his statement, lawyer Ok stated that all the facts about the case must be heard for a fair judgment. Lawyer Ok, proceeded to explain the injustices Yücel had to suffer starting from the police custody.

‘Deniz Yücel was imprisoned and released by orders from the government’

Presenting some of the other indictments prepared by prosecutor Hasan Yılmaz to the court, lawyer Ok said: “The person who prepared the indictment of our client Deniz Yücel is also the person who prepared the indictment on Osman Kavala. It is because of this indictment that now Turkey faces the possibility of being expelled from the Council of Europe, of which it is the founder.” Pointing out to the fact that the arrest warrant for Deniz Yücel was prepared by the complainant, “Our client was arrested by orders from the government and was imprisoned for one year. During Yücel’s imprisonment, our objections to detention were rejected without even being read. And at last, Deniz Yücel was finally released by the government’s orders.” Reminding the court that both the Constitutional Court (AYM) and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) found that Yücel’s rights were violated through his 367-days long imprisonment during which he also had to endure torture, lawyer Ok argued that the court must take into account the ordeal Yücel was put through.

‘The word salak is not an insult even according to the Turkish Language Association’

Reminding the court his defense in the previous hearing, lawyer Ok argued that the word “salak [fool, stupid, dope]” cannot be interpreted as an insult even if one went with the definition provided in the dictionary of Turkish Language Assocation. Lawyer Ok stated that in the dictionary the meaning of this word is someone who does not do their job properly. Lawyer Ok concluded his defense by urging the court to take into account the element of unjust provocation: “The complainant is not only responsible for the violations Yücel had suffered, but he also has responsibility in the socio-political crisis of Turkey today. He even contributed to the currency crisis by worsening it through his indictment because of which Turkey might be expelled from the Council of Europe.” Lawyer Ok demanded Yücel’s acquittal arguing that the elements of the alleged crime did not occur.

Lawyer Erselan Aktan: The complainant is a public figure and he must endure harsh criticism

Lawyer Erselan Aktan, began his defense by reminding the AYM and the ECtHR rulings on Deniz Yücel. Lawyer Aktan, reminding the past record of Hasan Yılmaz as a prosecutor, argued that since he took part in popular investigations and prosecutions,  he can be considered a public figure and thus he must endure harsh criticism even if it is shocking, as it has been established by the AYM. Continuing his defense, lawyer Aktan said: “The thing which the complainant took as an insult is the relaying of someone else's words and the dictionary does not define the word ‘salak’ as an insult. Considering the ordeal which Deniz Yücel was put through because of the complainant, the social media post in question did not even intend to insult the complainant. We demand that Yücel be acquitted since the elements of the alleged crime did not occur.” After a brief intermission for deliberation, the court announced its judgment. The court imposed a punitive fine on Yücel for “insulting a public official” and ordered the journalist to pay 7080 Turkish Liras. The court did not defer the announcement of the verdict.

Medya ve Hukuk Çalışmaları Derneği (MLSA) haber alma hakkı, ifade özgürlüğü ve basın özgürlüğü alanlarında faaliyet yürüten bir sivil toplum kuruluşudur. Derneğimiz başta gazeteciler olmak üzere mesleki faaliyetleri sebebiyle yargılanan kişilere hukuki destek vermektedir.