Freedom of Speech in the TRNC is being tested

Finally, it looks as if Pauline Read is having an impact on the system of justice currently in place in North Cyprus. She has been reporting on the ridiculous case of Geoff Day, highlighting the absurdities involved. She light-heartedly poked fun at a case which lawyer, Peyman Erginel, accuses the Attorney General’s office of “treating him worse than a mass murderer.” Before Pauline’s computer was confiscated she sent this email:

“Dear all,
I have just received a telephone call from Kyrenia Police Station summoning me to make a statement regarding the attached article. The officer with the unfortunate task is Officer Tolga Erol and he said it was about the article written on the 11th October, so presumably the one I have attached. I asked if a complaint had been made about me, he said yes, I asked who by, he said he couldn’t tell me. I have his phone number 0533 853 0777.  I will gather my thoughts, wait for a response from you all and then decide what to do.
I have to ask myself, is this about me covering the Geoff Day case for North Cyprus Free Press, or is it about me wanting to stage a Vigil?
Kind regards,
Pauline Read”
My first response is to take the light hearted article off the newspaper in order to protect Pauline. I find this unusual as North Cyprus Free Press is published in the USA and according to the laws there, I believe Pauline is doing no wrong. I received several emails, one from Ian Shepherd of Cyprus Today:

“Hello Malcolm,

Further to my earlier e-mail this morning, I would like to include a comment from yourself, as editor of North Cyprus Free Press, about Pauline Read being charged with insulting the court and the prosecutor – and having her computer confiscated. Could you also let me know when you set-up the website and, if possible, how many “hits” Pauline’s material was attracting?

I am, as ever, working under a tight deadline and would therefore be most grateful for an early response.


Ian Shepherd
Cyprus Today,

I’m still mulling over my thoughts on the charge of insulting the court, a charge which, to my mind, brings up images of an oppressive regime; something which until now I did not associate with North Cyprus. Peyman Erginel, reported in Cyprus Today, said that:

“Mr Denktaş is sensitive to the injustices being suffered by British and other property buyers. A great injustice is being inflicted on Geoffrey Day by the Attorney General’s office, which is treating him worse than a mass murderer. A criminal case is being used in an attempt to force Mr Day to pay a disputed bill to his builder. Mr Denktaş would never have attended a court case unless he felt unease about what is happening.”

Quite honestly, if anything we have published here was to be considered to be criticising the TRNC legal system then Geoff Day’s lawyer, Peyman Erginel, could be the first in the line.

I’d like to thank Hans Doeleman for the image used in this article. Freedom of Speech is of course important to me and when a legal system allows the situation that we find in Geoff Day’s case, and a local lawyer is moved to accuse the TRNC legal system of “a great injustice” then I know that Pauline Read should have a right to express her opinion about the injustice she had experienced in that court. If the TRNC moves to shut us all up, as they did with the Vigil, then, in my eyes, this shows Human Rights abuse of the highest order.

I’ll be fascinated to find out what happens when I return to the TRNC next week. I have been advised not to bring my computer with me as it contains sensitive exam board related material which should not be made accessible to unauthorised people. It would be interesting, however, to see what the exam board would have done if the TRNC government were to have confiscated a computer containing copies of an exam about to take place in January 2011. I could imagine UK newspapers carrying an article stating that “Exam has to be cancelled because North Cyprus government officials confiscate computer containing copy of exam paper.” It won’t happen of course…

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