CYPRUS: Acquittals in Erdogan insult case important for Turkish Cypriot free speech

The acquittal of Turkish Cypriot daily newspaper Afrika publisher Sener Levent and colleague Ali Osman Tabak in the Erdogan slander case is hailed as a victory for free speech in the Turkish-held north of Cyprus.

Lawyer Tacan Reynar for the newspaper told CNA that the court decision was important for the whole Turkish Cypriot community.

Reynar had presided as a senior judge over a case against six individuals who took part in the attacks against Afrika’s premises in January 2018 and handed down jail sentences of 2 to 6 months.

However, when they were released early by a parole board Reynar resigned and volunteered to represent Afrika in court.

Levent and Osman were acquitted by a court on May 16. They were facing up to five years in prison on charges of insulting and defaming Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.

They were on trial for insulting a foreign leader after the newspaper published a cartoon showing a Greek statue urinating on Erdogan’s head in December 2017.

The pressure against freedom of the press and expression is the beginning of a pressure certain people wish to exert on Turkish Cypriots, Reynar said.

On January 22, a mob attacked Afrika’s premises with stones and a legal case was launched against the newspaper.

It was the first time that a case was filed over a collage.

It was a case against a caricature that Sener Levent found on the internet, as he told the court, from a Greek friend of his on Facebook and he published it in the newspaper.

Day by day, the lawyer says, Ankara’s policies are imposed with the pressure increasing on Turkish Cypriots.

This is very dangerous. There is now an intervention on our identity, on the meaning of democracy, they are intervening on who we areI could have stayed out of it, especially after I resigned. But this is a social obligation which I undertook with great zest, said Reynar.

He believes everything that happened was aiming to curb freedom of expression and the freedom of the press.

Source: The Financial Mirror