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This man got a 13-year prison sentence for pouring paint over a statue

Turkish man Murat Vural had been given the sentence after pouring paint over statues of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey.

A statue of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in military uniform
A statue of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in military uniform
Image: AP/Press Association Images/Burhan Ozbilici

THE 13-YEAR PRISON sentence given to a Turkish man for pouring paint over a statue his country’s founder has been ruled “grossly disproportionate”.

This judgement was passed by the European Court of Human Rights.

Turkey’s actions were ruled to be in violation of Articles 10 (freedom of expression) and 3 (right to free elections) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Murat Vural was imprisoned for pouring paint over a number of statues of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk – the founder of the Republic of Turkey.

These statues were located in a number of public places, including two school yards.

In October 2005, Vural was initially sentenced to 22 and a half years in prison. This was later reduced to 13 years on appeal. 

Vural, who is in his late thirties, claimed he carried out his actions as an expression of his dissatisfaction with the Kemalist ideology in Turkey. He has been conditionally released from prison since June 2013, having served almost eight years of his sentence.

Freedom of expression 

The Turkish Government objected to the case being considered under Article 10 – as a matter of freedom of expression – as Vural had committed acts of vandalism. 

While vandalism had occurred, it was stated by the Court that it:

Did not consider that those acts had been of a severity warranting the imposition of a custodial sentence.

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In Turkey, conduct that is considered to be damaging to Atatürk’s memory and “damaging to the sentiments of Turkish society” are criminalised. This is legislated for under the ‘Law on Offences Committed Against Atatürk’.

It was decided during the hearing that Turkey should pay Vural €26,000 in damages.

As part of his punishment, Vural has been unable to vote in the Turkish elections.

The judgement was made by six judges from Italy, Turkey, Hungary, Montenegro, Lithuania, Iceland and Denmark.

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