Turkey: Legal breakthrough in favour of prosecuted singer Ferhat Tunç

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The European Court of Human Rights has convicted Turkey of violating freedom of speech in the case of singer Ferhat Tunç. A Turkish court had sentenced Ferhat Tunç to three months in prison and ordered him to pay a fine for having made dissident comments during a concert.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has found that Turkey violated Article 6 (right to a fair trial) and Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights by handing down a three month prison sentence and fine to singer Ferhat Tunç for performing at a concert on 4 August 2003.

Freemuse has followed the case against  Ferhat Tunç since the beginning. In 2004, Tunç witnessed about several of the cases raised against him at a Freemuse seminar at Womex.

“Turkey continues to violate artists rights to freedom of expression, and with this decision from the European Court Freemuse appeals to Turkey to close down all other cases against Ferhat Tunç and his fellow artists,” said Freemuse Executive Director Ole Reitov.

On 27 January 2014, Freemuse and Turkish sister organisations organised a meeting in Istanbul following the review of Turkey’s human rights records at the UN Human Rights Council 

Prior to this, Freemuse and its Turkish partners had submitted a UPR to the UN describing how Turkey systematically violate artists’ rights to freedom of expression.


ECHR judgement
The European Court of Human Rights ordered the Turkish Government to compensate Tunç with 3,250 euros for non-pecuniary damage and 1,000 euros to cover costs and expenses. 

“This judgement, which sets a precedent, emphasises once again that for a person to be tried without having the right to defend themselves will be accepted as a violation of the right to a fair trial,” said lawyer Ercan Demir, commenting on the judgment.


The judgement:

Yoslun v. Turkey (no. 2336/05)


“The applicant, Ferhat Tunç Yoslun, is a Turkish national who was born in 1964 and lives in Istanbul.
The case concerned a fine imposed on him, being accused of having made comments during his performance at an authorised concert.

On 4 August 2003 Mr Yoslun took part, as a singer, in a concert organised by the People’s Democratic Party (DEHAP) with authorisation from the prefecture. During this concert Mr Yoslun took the floor and gave a speech that was critical of the Turkish government, stating in particular that modern Turkey was neither free nor democratic. He also made comments in support of the Kurdish nationalist movements. Police reports were subsequently drawn up, as a result of which the prosecutor’s office brought charges against Mr Yoslun on 6 October 2003 for failing to obey orders, on the ground that the prefectoral authorisation for the event was valid only for a concert and did not authorise speeches. Mr Yoslun was ordered to pay a fine. On 8 December 2003 he appealed against the decision and requested a hearing. On 30 March 2004 the criminal court dismissed his appeal and his request for a hearing.

Relying in particular on Article 6 (right to a fair trial), Mr Yoslun complained about the fact that no hearing had been held and alleged that this had had an impact on the rights of the defence. Relying on Article 10 (freedom of expression), he complained that he had been convicted for having addressed the public during his performance at an authorised concert.

Just satisfaction: EUR 3,250 (non-pecuniary damage) and EUR 1,000 (costs and expenses)”

» ECHR press release:
Judgments of 10 February 2015




» Bianet – 10 February 2015:
Fine Ferhat Tunç’s Concert Speech Convicted by ECHR

» Hurriyet Daily News – 10 February 2015:
Euro court fines Turkey for fining singer due to speech in concert

» DicleHaber – 10 February 2015:
ECHR finds Turkey violated rights of Ferhat Tunç