Turkey deals with dissent by criminalising freedom of speech, former judge says

Haşim Kılıç, the former head of the Turkish constitutional court, said dissenting opinions in Turkey had been dealt with by impairing freedom of expression, nationalist opposition daily Sözcü reported on Monday.

"Different voices are being shut down by taking freedom of expression as being offensive," Kılıç, who retired in 2015, said in a speech at an event to mark the fifth anniversary of the Freedom Research Association, an Ankara-based think tank.

The Turkish authorities have suppressed dissent by labelling criticisms as insulting statesmen, terror propaganda or as inciting hatred, Kılıç said, according to Sözcü.

Basic rights and freedoms in Turkey were severely curtailed in two years of emergency rule that followed a failed coup attempt in July 2016.

The state of emergency ended last July, but observers have expressed concern that the increased powers it granted to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government have been made permanent under the new executive presidential system implemented after last year’s parliamentary and presidential elections.

"I did not agree with any of the regulations regarding the presidential government system,” Kılıç said. “They persistently and stubbornly went through with it when it was obvious that problems would arise and today they face a serious bottleneck.”

Turkey is ranked 109th out of 126 countries in the 2018-2019 Rule of Law Index, a measure of how the rule of law is perceived in countries around the world compiled by the World Justice Project, a non-profit civil society organisation.

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