Citizens can call ruling party murderers, Turkish court rules

Turkey’s highest court has ruled that police used excessive force in a raid on an opposition party building in Edirne, northwest Turkey, after members of the leftist Freedom and Solidarity party (ÖDP) hung a banner criticising Turkey’s ruling party, the Official Gazette said on Thursday.

The Constitutional Court also said the banner, which described the ruling party as “thieves and murderers,” was protected by Turkish laws on free expression.

The court said that ÖDP members had been subjected to "treatment incompatible with human dignity", in a Feb. 6 ruling published in the Official Gazette on Thursday.

During a visit by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), ahead of Edirne’s local elections in 2014, ÖDP members unfurled a banner that read “Thief, Murderer AKP” from their building. Erdoğan was prime minister at the time.

Police stormed their building after the party refused to remove the sign, and officers used tear gas on the party members in an enclosed space, which the court said was not acceptable.

"The physical power used by law enforcement officers to catch a person who resists must be limited to a level sufficient to break this person's resistance. The applied force must in no way go beyond the purpose of breaking the resistance and tend towards tormenting the resisting person," the decision said, adding that there had been no effective criminal investigation into the incident.

The Constitutional Court also rebuked the decision by authorities to have the banner removed, citing a violation in the freedom of expression.

"Freedom of expression applies not only to information and ideas accepted by society but also to hurtful, shocking or worrying information and thoughts,” the court said.