Press Freedom

The prison sentence given to journalist Sultan Eylem Keleş for ‘insulting the president’ has been taken to the Constitutional Court

Based on the lawsuit filed because of her Twitter posts, journalist Sultan Eylem Keleş was detained on March 9, 2022 in Elazığ, where she had traveled for a prison visit, and was released after her statement was taken. In the second hearing held at the Izmir 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance on March 10, 2022, the court sentenced Keleş, in the absence of her lawyer and herself, to 1 year 2 months and 17 days in prison for “insulting the president” and deferred the announcement of the verdict.

In the application filed by MLSA’s Legal Team at the Constitutional Court, it was argued that the right to a fair trial, which is protected by Article 36 of the Constitution and by Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), were violated. It was shared with the Court that the decision violated the right to a fair trial as the excuse submitted to the Izmir 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance by Keleş’s lawyers was not considered and the verdict was announced without Keleş being able to provide her last arguments.

In the application it was further argued that the sentencing of Keleş to 1 year 2 months and 17 days in prison and the deferment of the announcement of the verdict because of a social media post also violated Articles 25, 26 and 28 of the Constitution and Article 10 of the ECHR, which protects the freedom of expression. Indicating that “the right to criticize is a natural consequence of freedom of expression,” it was stated in the application that “the stable jurisprudence of the ECtHR and the Constitutional Court consider the necessity to not interfere with the right to criticize as a sine qua non of a pluralist democracy, no matter how harsh and hurtful the criticism may be.”

Pointing out that the tweets shared by Keleş dated back to 2015 and were unlawfully gathered by the police through a method called “virtual patrol,” Keleş’s lawyers recalled the Vedat Şorli v. Türkiye judgment of the ECtHR. It is emphasized that “the ECtHR, in its assessment of Article 299 of the Turkish Criminal Law (TCK) based on which the applicant was sentenced, decided that the article regulating the offense of insulting the president was not in line with the spirit of the ECHR.”