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Journalist convicted of "insulting" lawyer, faces possible imprisonment and compensation fees

(BIANET/IFEX) - Journalist Ayse Önal of the "Star" newspaper has been sentenced to three months imprisonment and payment of compensation to Kemal Kerincsiz, a lawyer with of the Great Lawyer's Union, after he filed a suit against her. Her imprisonment has been converted into a fine.

Önal has been sentenced to paying Kerincsiz compensation by a penal court in Istanbul for "insulting" him. The lawyer had demanded 8,000 YTL (approx. US$6,200), however the court agreed on 3,000 YTL (approx. US$2,300) with added interest since the publication of the article, resulting in a payment of 4,750 YTL (approx. US$3700).

In an article published on 30 December 2005, Önal had criticised Kerincsiz for filing a suit against Joost Lagendijk, the co-chair of the EU Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee. In the article, entitled "A New Year's Wish", she had used the expressions "a suspicious copy of a lawyer" and "insane" to describe Kerincsiz. She has also been found guilty for writing that Kerincsiz was "making more noise than could be expected from a dwarf" and that "the smear campaign of an ill (intentioned) future assassin is hitting the real Turkish law."

Kerincsiz has achieved national and international notoriety for filing suits against intellectuals such as Orhan Pamuk, Elif Shafak and Hrant Dink.

The court applied Article 126 of the Penal Code in its judgment, which states that "even if the aggrieved person's name is not openly referred to and allegations are insinuated, it is considered that the name was given and that an insult took place if there is no hesitation in identifying the person."

Önal has declared that she paid Kerincsiz's lawyer the compensation together with 750 YTL (approx. US$800) even before the court case was decided. She has also been sentenced to a three-month prison sentence converted into a fine. Önal has said that she is as yet undecided on whether to pay the fine.

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