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Conviction based on app use violated Turkiye teacher's rights - European Court

September 26, 2023 at 6:18 pm

European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France [Mustafa Yalçın – Anadolu Agency]

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled on Tuesday that a Turkish teacher convicted in 2017 of terrorism offences had his rights violated because the case against him relied mostly on his use of an encrypted messaging application, Reuters reports.

The Court said its ruling on the conviction of Yuksel Yalcinkaya, a former teacher, could apply to thousands of other Turks who were jailed following a 2016 failed coup attempt that Turkiye blames on followers of US.-based cleric, Fethullah Gulen.

Turkiye, whose Justice Minister criticised the ECHR’s ruling, considers Gulen’s movement a terrorist organisation. Yalcinkaya was convicted in 2017 of membership in the group and sentenced to six years and three months in prison.

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In its ruling, the ECHR said Turkiye’s conviction of Yalcinkaya was “based decisively” on his alleged use of ByLock, an encrypted messaging system that Turkish courts have said was designed for use by Gulen followers.

The ECHR said the conviction violated Yalcinkaya’s rights to a fair trial, freedom of assembly and due process.

“There are currently approximately 8,500 applications on the (ECHR’s) docket involving similar complaints,” it added.

The Court said that additional evidence against Yalcinkaya included his use of an account at Bank Asya, a lender started by Gulen followers and seized by the government in 2015, and his membership in a trade union and educators’ group that Turkiye says are affiliated with the cleric.

Turkish Justice Minister, Yilmaz Tunc, said on social media that the European Court “is not a Court of appeal,” adding: “The ECHR clearly exceeded its authority by evaluating evidence.”

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