Turkish editor convicted of insulting the president

Istanbul, April 25, 2013–An Istanbul court convicted a Turkish editor of “publicly insulting the president” and sentenced him to a conditional term of 14 months in prison, according to news reports. Ali Örnek would be jailed if he repeats the perceived offense sometime in the next five years under amendments to Turkey’s criminal code introduced in 2012.

The court sentenced Örnek, foreign news editor for the Communist daily Sol, in a one-day trial that stemmed from a complaint filed by the president’s office in 2011, according to news reports. The June 2012 amendments that legalized this kind of conditional sentence are known as the Third Judicial Package, and have been widely criticized by local and international press freedom and human rights groups as paying lip service to judicial reform.

Örnek was convicted in connection with comments he posted in 2010 on the blogging platform ITUsözlük, a website on which any user can post definitions of popular titles or phrases. His comment, posted under the definition of local educational institution Abdullah Gül University, said “its graduates would continue to attend the Abdullah Gül’s school of life [marked by] unemployment, bribing, [and] favoritism.”

Örnek told CPJ he would not hesitate to write if he felt the need to do so. His lawyer, Özgür Urfa, told CPJ that the editor would appeal the verdict.

“This sentence is effectively a censorship order that tells Ali Örnek that he’ll go to jail if he dares to make another critical comment. The conviction should be overturned on appeal,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “We urge Turkish leaders to fundamentally reform the country’s restrictive laws, including this provision of the Third Judicial Package that codifies censorship.”