Turkish Constitutional Court Rejects Nishanian Appeal

Turkish Armenian writer and activist Sevan Nishanian

ISTANBUL (ArmRadio)—An appeal to the Turkish Constitutional Court regarding Sevan Nishanian’s case in which he is charged under the “Code of Protection of Cultural and Natural Properties” for which he received a lengthy prison sentences has been rejected. Nishanian’s representatives say the next legal step is to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

In its verdict dated January 30, the Constitutional Court ruled that the appeal displayed a “clear lack of basis” since no explicit arbitrariness had been detected in Nishianian’s trial process. Nishanian’s lawyer Ergin Cinmen stated that with this ruling of the Constitutional Court they had exhausted domestic legal remedies, and that they would be applying to the European Court of Human Rights in the coming days.

Grounds of appeal
The appeal filed in September of 2014 covered the sentences attributed to Nishanian in reference to Article 65 of the Law on “deliberately causing damage to immovable cultural assets under protection.” The appeal was founded on the fact that the allegation had not been serviced to Nishanian and that therefore Nishanian could not have known the specific criminal scope of his acts. The prior cancellation of the relevant law by the Constitutional Court had been presented as a further rationale.

In response to the appeal, in its verdict, the Constitutional Court justified the decision of the local court that ruled for the sentence and that of the Court of Cassation, which approved it, and accepted the view that Nishanian was aware of the fact that the site where he committed the attributed crime was a Protected Area. The Constitutional Court also ruled that the Court of Cassation had approved a crime that had been committed before the Constitutional Court had annulled the relevant law. In the conclusion for the verdict, the Constitutional Court stated that there was no apparent mistake in valuation or explicit arbitrariness in the cases, clearly underlining that the Constitutional Court would not examine such cases, and that therefore the appeal was unacceptable because it displayed a “clear lack of basis.”

Next step: ECHR
Nishanian’s lawyer Ergin Cinmen who filed the application to the Constitutional Court said the following regarding the verdict: “The Constitutional Court had previously ruled that the procedure related to crime Nishanian has been sentenced for was a violation of the Constitution. Thus the Court, at present, has confirmed Nishanian’s confinement by attributing to him a crime that itself found to be in violation of the Constitution in its nature. Since with this ruling of the Constitutional Court we have exhausted domestic legal remedies, we will be applying to the European Court of Human Rights in the coming days. However, the procedure there progresses very slowly.”

Nishanian has been imprisoned since January 2014, and he also has a pending prison sentence of 14 years and 2 months inflicted for opposition to the Construction Law and the Code of Protection of Cultural and Natural Properties which has not been approved by the Court of Cassation as of yet. Nishanian is currently the only person in Turkey who is serving a prison sentence in a closed prison in relation to these specific crimes.

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