The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled on Tuesday that Turkey’s conviction of a former teacher, Yüksel Yalçınkaya, on charges of terrorism, was unlawful. Yalçınkaya had been sentenced to over six years for alleged ties to the Gülen movement, which Turkey accuses of orchestrating the failed coup of 2016.
The Strasbourg-based court found Turkey to be in breach of three key articles of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR): the right to a fair trial, the prohibition of punishment without law, and the freedom of assembly and association. As a result, Turkey is obliged to pay Yalçınkaya €15,000 for costs and expenses.
The ruling, underpinned by Article 46 of the ECHR, mandates Turkey to rectify these violations and make reparations. This decision carries particular urgency as it has implications for approximately 8,500 similar cases before the ECHR.
The Court criticised Turkey’s reliance on the applicant’s use of the encrypted messaging app ByLock as evidence, citing the country’s departure from the requirements laid down in national law and the lack of safeguards against arbitrary prosecution, conviction and punishment. It also highlighted procedural shortcomings in Yalçınkaya’s trial, including restricted access to evidence and the absence of independent data examination.
The judgement is expected to trigger a wave of retrials and potentially usher in significant legal reforms in Turkey. The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe will oversee the implementation of this ruling, increasing pressure on Turkey to make meaningful judicial changes.
The ECtHR emphasised that the issues leading to these violations are systemic, particularly concerning Turkey’s approach to ByLock evidence. The court urged Turkey to take comprehensive measures to address these deep-rooted problems in its judiciary.