ECHR orders Turkey to pay compensation to opposition leader, rejecting legal appeal

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has rejected a legal appeal by the government of Turkey against an order for it to pay compensation to main opposition party leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, Euronews Turkish reported on Tuesday.

Kılıçdaroğlu was awarded € 13,047 euros ($15,670) in compensation over violations of his right to freedom of expression in an October ruling by the top human rights court.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, during his term as prime minister, sued Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) for defamation of character for comments he made during two speeches in 2012, demanding compensation for “damages to his personal and professional honour and reputation”, the ECHR said in the October statement.

After being convicted and required to pay 10,000 liras ($5,550 at the time, $1,225 currently), Kılıçdaroğlu appealed to the Constitutional Court (AYM), which found no violation of his rights in an October 2017 decision.

The AYM said that while it was natural for a politician such as Erdoğan to “have his words and actions strictly and closely scrutinised by the appellant, who is one of his political opponents”, Kılıçdaroğlu’s comments contained “personal attacks”.

Taking the matter to the ECHR, Kılıçdaroğlu argued that his comments “contained criticisms that … related to established facts”, and didn’t constitute insults.

According to the ECHR ruling, Kılıçdaroğlu’s comments “remained predominantly in the political sphere” in subject matter, and were “not specifically directed at (Erdoğan’s) private life)”.

The compensation the Turkish courts initially ordered and the AYM held up “was significant and capable of deterring others from criticising politicians in the context of a debate on a question of public interest”, the ECHR said.

Turkish courts did not take into account the ECHR’s established case-law “to weigh up the right to respect for private life, on the one hand, and the right to freedom of expression, on the other”, the ECHR said.