Turkish Cypriot journalist takes on Turkey

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Outspoken Turkish Cypriot journalist Şener Levent hopes for a European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling in his case against Turkey that “will strengthen the principle of freedom of expression”.

In statements to the Cyprus News Agency (CNA), the well-known newspaper publisher explained the rationale behind his recent appeal to the ECHR.

“We have appealed to the ECHR through our lawyer Öncel Polili because we approach the lawsuits filed against me and our newspaper (Avrupa) in Cyprus and Ankara as legal harassment,” Levent said.

“A plethora of criminal cases against us have been launched. The trials were initiated following complaints from the army and the embassy over articles published in our newspaper.”

“There is a significant issue…some lawsuits are also being brought before Ankara’s criminal courts.

“We witnessed this with the notorious cartoon-collage case.

“We were tried and acquitted two years ago, in this case, on the island.

“However, the prosecutor’s office appealed to the supreme court. We have been awaiting the appeal decision for the past two years.”

His newspaper then called Afrika, Levent, and another journalist Ali Osman had been acquitted by a Turkish Cypriot court on May 16, 2019.

They had faced 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.

“While we were waiting for this decision, they started a parallel lawsuit in Ankara.

“I was tried in absentia and informed of the verdict in the process.

“I was not summoned to a hearing. And the verdict was a one-year prison sentence.

“It was then converted to a fine. I was asked to pay it. I did not obey the court’s decision or make any payment”.

Levent believes his conviction in a case against him for which he was acquitted violates basic legal standards.

He maintains that all the lawsuits against Avrupa constitute legal harassment.

“This abuse has been occurring for a long time. I’m hoping the ECHR will accept our appeal.

“We are suing Turkey. We believe that this is important. We expect a positive outcome for freedom of expression.”