EGMR: Conviction of an imam on the grounds of his Facebook posts was in breach of the Convention

Pressemitteilung vom 31.08.2021

ECHR 249 (2021)

In today’s Chamber judgment in the case of Üçdağ v. Turkey (application no. 23314/19) the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been: a violation of Article 6 § 1 (right of access to a tribunal) and a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights. The case concerned Mr Üçdağ’s criminal conviction for disseminating propaganda in favour of a terrorist organisation on account of two posts published on his Facebook account, as well as the rejection of his individual application to the Constitutional Court as being out of time. At the relevant time, Mr Üçdağ was a public official working as an imam at a local mosque. The impugned posts had included two photographs (of individuals in uniform similar to that of PKK members and of a crowd demonstrating in a public street in front of a fire), originally shared by two other Facebook users. The Court considered that the domestic courts’ decisions failed to provide an adequate explanation of the reasons why the impugned contents had to be interpreted as condoning, praising and encouraging the methods [using] coercion, violence or threats implemented by the PKK in the context of their publication. It held that by convicting Mr Üçdağ on charges of propaganda in favour of a terrorist organisation for having posted controversial contents on his Facebook account, the domestic authorities had failed to conduct an appropriate balancing exercise, in line with the criteria set out in its case-law, between the applicant’s right to freedom of expression and the legitimate aims pursued. The Court also ruled that the Constitutional Court’s very strict interpretation of the time-limit on lodging an individual application had disproportionately interfered with the applicant’s right to an assessment of the merits of his individual application.