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ECHR condemns three rulings against journalists, accepts a fourth

(BIANET/IFEX) - On 14 June 2007, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) decreed that freedom of expression was not curtailed in the case of Hünkar Demirel, the manager of the weekly newspaper "Yedinci Gündem", who appealed to the ECHR after he was convicted of "aiding and abetting a terrorist organisation by spreading propaganda".

Demirel was put to trial over an article published in the newspaper in July 2001, in which he analysed "reasons for joining the organisation" (the PKK). In June 2002, he was sentenced to a prison term of three years and nine months, later converted into a fine.

Demirel appealed to the ECHR, arguing that he had not had a fair trial. He claimed that his freedom of expression had been curtailed and his right to property violated. The ECHR agreed unanimously that there were doubts about a fair trial under the State Security Court (DGM). However, it also argued that the article represented an incitement to violence, quoting sentences such as "If someone wanted to kill you, you would use legitimate self-defence" and "If the world is uniting against us, we will use our right to self-defence". According to the ECHR, the article was an attempt at "legitimising the PKK rebellion"; the article also apologised for the violent and random acts of the organisation. The ECHR decreed that in the light of the agenda of the article, the received sentence was not excessive.

It ruled that the government is to pay Demirel 1,000 euros in legal costs.

On the same day, the ECHR demanded a total of 5,250 euros from the government as compensation payments for violating Article 10 in three separate cases:

- Mehmet Colak, the managing editor of the pro-Kurdish "Yeniden Özgür Gündem" newspaper, had appealed to the ECHR because the government forbade distribution and sale of the newspaper in the eastern provinces under emergency law in September 2002 without an audit by the judiciary.

- Mehmet Selim Okcuoglu had appealed to the ECHR after receiving a one-year prison sentence and a fine for "separatist propaganda" and "incitement to hatred and hostility" from the DGM in September 1998. He had written an article in the Kurdish-interest People's Democracy Party (HADEP) newsletter, entitled "About the Court Case Against Our Leaders".

- Tuncay Seyman, editor-in-chief of the "Yeni Evrensel" newspaper, and Fevzi Saygili, the owner, were punished by the DGM in February 2000 for "inciting hatred and hostility" with their article entitled "The Kurdish Problem and the Struggle for Equal Rights". They, too, won their appeal to the ECHR.

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