Turkey: Highest court makes first acknowledgment of homophobic speech as hate crime

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Turkey’s highest court has ruled that calling members of the LGBT community “perverts” constitutes hate speech, in what is reportedly its first acknowledgement of homophobia as a hate crime.

The case was brought by Attorney Sinem Hun against website Habervaktim.com, after it published an article which called her “the lawyer of the association of the perverts called Kaos GL”, a Turkish LGBT rights organisation.

Although the Constitutional Court of Turkey ruled that the website could not be penalised, claiming that the attack had been committed against the organisation and therefore did not breach the rights of the individual attorney, it acknowledged that the text constituted hate speech.

The Court stated: “Unless there is a call for violence or hate speech that might damage pluralistic democracy and might even destroy it, punishment which limits individuals’ freedom should be avoided.”

Nevertheless, the ruling has been hailed as a step forwards for Turkey’s LGBT community.

Attorney Hayriye Kara, of the Kaos GL Association, said: “This court decision is the first time the Supreme Court regards hate speech as a crime and therefore for the first time hate speech has been regarded as a judicial issue.

“This is certainly a significant decision. It is also clarified in the resolution that hate speech should have penal sanction. Moreover the judgment also shows the Court’s stance regarding hate speech. It is very important that the Court stands against hate speeches against different sexual orientations.”

Osman Alifeyyaz Paksut, a member of the Constitutional Court, said: “It is the government’s utmost duty to prevent discrimination, separation and hate aimed at the people with different sexual orientations.”