Mehmet Kutlular, is a Turkish national who was born in 1938 and lives in Istanbul (Turkey). He is a journalist and the owner of the Yeni Asya daily newspaper.
The applicant was criminally convicted of proffering hate speech, at a religious ceremony organised by the newspaper and in a brochure distributed to the participants. The Marmara earthquake, which killed some 20,000 people in 1999, was presented as divine punishment for the pressure allegedly exerted on religion by the military in Turkey, and for people’s ingratitude towards God, their sinful ways and their failure to praise God. Relying, among other things, on Article 10 (freedom of expression), the applicant complained of a violation of his right to freedom of expression. He also complained, under Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination), that he was a victim of discrimination because of his “identification with the opposition”.
The Court noted that in reading religious meaning into a natural disaster and, in particular, suggesting that there was a cause and effect relationship between the disaster and the failure of a majority of the population to react to certain government measures, the speech was capable of spreading superstition, intolerance and obscurantism. Ultimately it was a form of proselytism and its tone was generally offensive towards “non-believers” as well as towards the Government. Nevertheless, the Court considered that, however shocking and offensive they might have been, the applicants words had not incited people to violence or been capable of stirring hatred against people who did not belong to the applicant’s religious community. The Court also found that the criminal conviction of the applicant had been disproportionate to the aim pursued. It accordingly found, unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 10 and held that there was no need to examine the complaint separately under Article 14. The Court awarded Mr Kutlular EUR 5,000 in respect of non-pecuniary damage. (The judgment is available only in French.)
REFERENCE: Yeni Asya gazetesi sahibi Mehmet Kutlular cezaevine konuldu (Milliyet, 23 Mayıs 2001), Mehmet Kutlular / İşte hayatım (2009), Cemaat içi demokrasiye ilk adım (Rotahaber, 12 Mayıs 2014), Mahkeme kararı Yargıtay’dan döndü (Zaman, 26 Şubat 2015), Risale-i Nur hizmetine adanmış bir hayat (Yeni Asya, 30 Nisan 2017), Sözlerimin arkasındayım (yeniasya.com.tr, 30 Temmuz 2018).