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Conviction based on use of app violated Turkish teachers’ rights, European court says

This article was originally published in Turkish

Turkish Justice Minister Yilmaz Tunc said on social media that “the ECHR has clearly exceeded its authority in evaluating the evidence.”

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled on Tuesday that a Turkish teacher convicted in 2017 of terrorism offenses had his rights violated because the case against him was based primarily on his use of a messaging app encrypted. The court’s ruling could apply to thousands of other Turks imprisoned following a failed coup attempt in 2016.


Nearly seven years after the 2016 coup attempt, the Strasbourg court ruled on Tuesday that the rights of former teacher Yuksel Yalcinkay had been violated in three cases: Article 6, Article 7 and Article 11 on freedom of assembly and association.

In its ruling, the ECHR said Turkey’s conviction of Yalcinkaya was “crucially based” on her alleged use of ByLock, an encrypted messaging system that Turkish courts said was designed for use by Gülen supporters.

Fethullah Gülen is a US-based preacher and former ally of the AKP party, which Erdoğan accuses of inciting the failed 2016 coup.

Criticizing the court’s judgment, Turkish Justice Minister Yılmaz Tunç rejected the decision, calling it unacceptable.

“It is unacceptable that the ECtHR exceeds its jurisdiction and renders a judgment of violation by examining the evidence in a case where our judicial authorities at all levels have deemed the evidence sufficient,” the minister said on the X platform.

According to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights, Mr. Yalçınkaya’s conviction was decisively based on his use of the encrypted messaging application, which domestic courts found had been designed for the use exclusive to members of “FETÖ/PDY”. under the cover of a global application.

The Court found that such a uniform and comprehensive approach on the part of the Turkish judiciary towards the ByLock evidence deviated from the requirements of national law for the offense in question and was contrary to the object and the purpose of Article 7, which is to provide effective guarantees against arbitrary prosecutions, convictions and sanctions.

Speaking to euronews, the plaintiff’s lawyer Johan Heymans called the judgment a “historic decision” and said it should set a precedent for similar cases in Turkey.

Heymans said there were currently 8,500 cases pending before the ECtHR.

In 2016, Mr. Yalçınkaya, then a teacher, was arrested on suspicion of being a member of an organization described by Turkish authorities as “Fetullahist Terrorist Organization / Parallel State Structure” (Fetullahçı Terör Örgütü / Paralel Devlet Yapılanması – “FETÖ/PDY”). ).

Following his placement in pre-trial detention, an indictment was filed in 2017, citing, among other things, the use of the ByLock phone application, suspicious banking activities, membership in a union and an association allegedly linked to it. to terrorism, and mentioned an anonymous informant.


The case went to trial and Mr. Yalçınkaya was convicted in 2017 and sentenced to six years and three months in prison. Subsequently, the Ankara Regional Court of Appeal and the Court of Cassation upheld Mr. Yalçınkaya’s conviction. Finally, in 2019, the Constitutional Court rejected as inadmissible a petition filed by him in this case.

Additional sources •Reuters


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