‘Public Officers Can Also Protest a Minister’

The Constitutional Court has announced its ruling on an Education Union (Egitim-Sen) member teacher penalized for applauding the Minister of Education in protest. The Court has ruled that his freedom of association has been violated.

Announcing its ruling on a teacher who was given a disciplinary punishment for protesting the Minister of National Education by applauding in an organized manner, the Constitutional Court has concluded that his freedom of association has been violated.

In its justified ruling published on the Official Gazette today (November 6), the Constitutional Court has indicated that "the penalization of the applicant for joining a protest in accordance with the decision of the union and using his freedom of expression in an organized manner intervened in the applicant's freedom of association."

The ruling has also put an emphasis on the freedom of expression of public officers. "Public officers, who are also individuals themselves, benefit from the protection of fundamental principles of a democratic society such as plurality, tolerance and open-mindedness", the Court has said.

According to the Court, "So long as they do not reflect it in their duties, incite to violence or reject democratic values, public officers can benefit from the protection of freedom of expression even when opinions and their ways of expression are deemed unacceptable by the competent authorities."

Applicant to be paid 3,000 lira in damages

Veysel Kaplan, a primary school teacher in Kocaeli, was the Kocaeli Branch Chair of the Education and Science Laborers' Union (Egitim-Sen). The Central Executive Committee of the Union decided to protest the Minister of National Education on June 7, 2012.

In its related decision, the Union requested that the speeches to be made by the Minister via teleconference be protested with applause and the teachers wait outside the meeting hall throughout the speeches.

Tasked with joining this protest in Kocaeli by the Union, E.V. was prevented from protesting. Veysel Kaplan requested that the Chief of Department apologize to E.V. because he inflicted violence on the teacher.

According to the report of the disciplinary punishment, Kaplan "started casting unfounded smears on the Minister and he made remarks in protest of 4+4+4 education system and the Minister."

As for the rulings of the local courts, they indicated that Veysel Kaplan "made negative statements about the Minister and he left the meeting hall after applauding with a group of his friends in protest."

A disciplinary investigation was launched against Kaplan due to this protest and he was given a penalty of warning. He filed a lawsuit against this penalty at the Kocaeli 2nd Administrative Court. The lawsuit was rejected. As the Sakarya Regional Administrative Court upheld the rejection of the local court, Kaplan applied to the Constitutional Court.

In his application, Kaplan indicated that "his freedom of association was violated by his penalization for not listening the speech of the Minister of National Education and applauding it in protest."

In its justified ruling published on the Official Gazette today, the Constitutional Court has concluded that "the disciplinary punishment does not comply with the necessities of a democratic social order."

Accordingly, the Court has concluded that Kaplan's freedom of association guaranteed by the Article 33 of the Constitution has been violated. It has also ruled that the file of the case shall be remitted to the Kocaeli 2nd Administrative Court for retrial. Veysel Kaplan will also be paid 3,000 Turkish Lira (TRY) in non-pecuniary damages.

Source: English Bianet