Selçuk Bayraktar, the son-in-law of President and Justice and Development Party (AKP) Chair Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and his Baykar Machine Industry company, a manufacturer of uncrewed aerial vehicles, have filed a suit for damages against economy columnist-journalist Mustafa Sönmez.
Bayraktar and his firm have demanded 100 thousand Turkish Lira (TRY) from Sönmez over a single tweet he posted on October 24, 2019.
In the related tweet, Sönmez mentioned a tweet by Selçuk Bayraktar and wrote, “While balance sheets are being made up, trying to understand who has lost and who has profited, don’t forget about the son-in-law who sold quite a lot of arms and ammunition to the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) and to his boss, his father-in-law. He has made a good profit.”
In their application to the İstanbul Civil Court of First Instance, Bayraktar’s attorneys Abdullah Demirhan and Serkan Kaya have argued that this single tweet of Mustafa Sönmez, by sharing news contrary to facts, has violated their client’s personal rights and insulted him.
The attorneys have also asserted that the tweet in question does not comply with the code of conduct, claiming that Sönmez’s statement “intended to undermine the kindness and respectability of the client in the eyes of all segments of the society and to trample upon his prestige.”
Referring to Turkey’s “Operation Peace Spring” into Syria as well, Bayraktar’s attorneys have defined the tweet as “extremely ill-intentioned,” arguing that “it is not certain what purposes it served.” They have said that Selçuk Bayraktar and his Baykar Machine Industry produced the first uncrewed aerial vehicle system “with a national and unique design.”
The two pages of 5-page petition of the attorneys have been allocated to the operations where the uncrewed aerial vehicles were used. Putting an emphasis on nationalism, the petition of the attorneys has read:
“While it well-known even by the enemies of our country that the National and Unique Bayraktar Tactical Unmanned Aerial Vehicle System is a source of pride and gratification in the eyes of our nation, our state and our army, the reasons for the intended enmity to the system need to be put forward.
“The reasons behind the disturbance of the enemies of our nation, our state and our army and the pro-PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] people have been known by everyone for long years.”
Arguing that Sönmez has violated the personal rights of their client, the attorneys have alleged that the tweet in question was intended to disgrace the uncrewed aerial vehicles in the eyes of the public. Accordingly, they have requested 100 thousand TRY in non-pecuniary damages (40 thousand for the company, 60 thousand for Selçuk Bayraktar).
Statement by Sönmez
Mustafa Sönmez has announced the lawsuit on his social media account.
“The son-in-law no. 2, namely Selçuk Bayraktar, has apparently filed a suit for damages of 100 thousand lira over a Twitter message of mine,” Sönmez has said. Sharing the tweet in question, he has asked, “What kind of intolerance to freedom of expression and media that is! If you had not been the son-in-law, would the judiciary have taken your complaint seriously?”
Önderoğlu: One of the intimidating techniques
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Representative to Turkey Erol Önderoğlu has denounced the suit for damages of 100 thousand TRY:
“The lawsuits filed over a single tweet and demanding astronomical damages have been one of the most frequently used intimidating techniques of the power holders. Burning the bridges over a criticism of ‘You make good profit’ against a commercial enterprise is also an attempt to be immune. It is understood that in order for this to be intimidating for the ones who share their opinions, they demand disproportionate amounts.”