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Journalist and security expert charged for "denigrating armed forces" in article

(BIANET/IFEX) - The weekly magazine "Nokta" was forced to close in April 2007. It now faces a court case under Article 301 for an interview with security expert Lale Sariibrahimoglu and a follow-up article, both of which criticised the involvement of the army in domestic affairs.

Ahmet Sik, the reporter who conducted the interview, and Lale Sariibrahimoglu are being tried at a penal court in Bakirköy, Istanbul. The prosecution is demanding up to three years' imprisonment.

There had been discussions about changing the controversial Article 301, but in the current election fever the government has quietly let the issue drop, allowing it to continue to serve the purposes of the armed forces' general staff and the general command of the gendarmerie.

Journalist Ali Bayramoglu from the "Yeni Safak" newspaper commented that Article 301, (formerly Article 159) allows for the demonstration of authority in a legal framework. He evaluated the latest trial under Article 301, saying that as long as the activities of "Nokta" encountered army antagonism, the army would try to prevent any questioning of its institutions.

In light of the recent warning to the government, which the armed forces' general staff published on its website, Bayramoglu considers this trial a sign of more authoritarian behaviour on the part of the army.

When journalist Sik appeared in court on 22 May to give a statement, he was notified by prosecutor Hasan Basri Zamanis that he was being prosecuted because of a complaint from the general command of the gendarmerie. He and Sariibrahimoglu are accused of "decreasing the respect for the army among the people" and "denigrating the state's armed forces".

In her interview with "Nokta", Sariibrahimoglu commented on the pictures that emerged in the press after journalist Hrant Dink's murder, and her comments are being used as the basis for the prosecution. The young man accused of shooting Dink was photographed as a hero at the police station, and many police staff and officers wanted their photos taken with him. Sariibrahimoglu commented that "while the police were taken off active duty, the soldiers were only transferred to other places. If we look at this scenario, it is not just a case of protecting personnel, but of protecting a mentality [. . .]. The Dink investigation has shown once more that all three institutions [police, army and gendarmerie] are in need of cleaning up."

According to the BIA media observation desk, around 100 people have been tried under Article 301 in the last two years.

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