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Turkish court acquits three journalists of terrorist charges

(IPI/IFEX) - VIENNA, Nov 13, 2012 – The International Press Institute (IPI) today welcomed news that a Turkish court has acquitted three journalists of charges that they spread propaganda for a terrorist organisation.

A court in Istanbul on Friday acquitted Ozer Ozdemir, Ender Imrek and Fatih Polat of the left-wing daily Evrensel (Universal) newspaper, which is published by Turkey's Labour Party (EMEP)

Local sources said the move came at the request of a prosecutor. The three journalists faced charges based on photos, news reports, comments and headlines that appeared in the newspaper's March 24 edition.

IPI's Turkish National Committee in a statement said: “We hope that this decision, which makes us happy, will be an example for all of the court cases against journalists. We ask that all journalists who face charges for the practice of their profession be acquitted and, most important of all, that all imprisoned journalists be set free immediately.”

IPI Press Freedom Manager Barbara Trionfi echoed those comments.

“Far too many journalists remain imprisoned in Turkey on charges that appear to target them for having practiced journalism,” she said. “IPI and its affiliate, the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), urge Turkey's leaders to respect the vital role that journalists play in democracy and to release all journalists who have been imprisoned for their work.”

In other news, members of IPI's Turkish National Committee yesterday travelled to Silivri Prison to attend the latest hearing in the “KCK Press Committee” case, in which journalists and press workers are accused of spreading propaganda for a group the Turkish government claims is the “urban wing” of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which the United States, the European Union and Turkey label a terrorist organisation.

Observers at the hearing said a number of the defendants are participating in an ongoing hunger strike, demanding the right to use the Kurdish language in Turkish courts and calling on an end to the isolation of PKK founder Abdullah Ocalan, currently imprisoned on the Turkish island of Imrali. One defendant reportedly tried to speak about the hunger strike and was ordered removed from the courtroom when he refused to stop speaking while the indictment was being read aloud. His fellow defendants also left the courtroom, and sources said the indictment was read to a mostly-empty courtroom following a brief pause.

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