Speaking Turkish: Bulgarian politician wins legal battle again state

European Court of Human Rights orders Bulgaria to pay $4,830 for infringing on Turkish-origin Lutfi Mestan's freedom of expression.

Yayınlanma: 02.05.2023 - 17:37
Speaking Turkish: Bulgarian politician wins legal battle again state
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A prominent ethnic Turkish-origin Bulgarian politician on Tuesday won a legal battle against the state for speaking the Turkish language during his election campaign in 2013.

Lutfi Mestan was the leader of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) running for parliament when he used Turkish during a campaign event.

On May 17, 2013, he was issued an administrative fine of €1,000 for violating the election code, and upon appeal, a district court upheld the decision but reduced the fine to €250.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in its Tuesday ruling that Bulgaria violated Mestan's freedom of expression by fining him and that he should be compensated for damages and legal costs totaling €4,400 (about $4,830), according to Bulgaria's state-run BTA news agency.

While the restriction on language use is prohibited by the election code, the court questioned whether it is "necessary in a democratic society."

Mestan was fined by the local court for violating Article 133 of the election code, which mandated the use of the Bulgarian language during election campaigns.

However, in his appeal to the district court, he argued that the language he used during the event was not only his mother tongue but also that of his Turkish-minority electorate, the majority of whom were elderly and not fluent in Bulgarian.

The court reduced the fine amount but upheld the administrative court decision, prompting Mestan to take the matter to the ECHR.

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