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Journalist on trial for allegedly insulting mayor, other officials, in satirical newspaper article

(BIANET/IFEX) - Yakup Önal, of the local newspaper "Sarköy'ün Sesi" ("The Voice of Sarköy") in Sarköy, Tekirdag province, is on trial for allegedly "insulting" the Justice and Development Party (AKP) mayor and two members of the municipal council.

The prosecution has demanded 10 years' imprisonment for Önal for insulting Mayor Can Gürsoy and municipal council members Olcay Yücel and Ercan Yücel in an article entitled "Fairy tales for adults - Pinocchio and the nine dwarves".

The court case will continue on 31 October 2007. The court will decide whether to invite a technical expert to the next hearing. The case was initially handled by prosecutor Tamer Soysal. On his transferal to Diyarbakir, the case was taken over by prosecutor Hüseyin Kocaslan.

Soysal had appealed against the acquittal of the journalist in an earlier case, on 14 March, related to an article entitled "Beer drinkers in blue-flagged Sarköy, beware!" Önal was then on trial for "violating the secrecy of an investigation" and "attempting to influence the judiciary".

The present case has been underway for some time. On 21 November 2006, the Sarköy civil court of first instance decided that the journalist had "gone beyond the limits of criticism" in his article. However, it did not demand any compensation be paid. The court called on Önal to "end the unfair attacks" on Gürsoy and ruled that its decree be published in the newspaper in order that "third persons be informed". Önal appealed against that decision.

Local authorities have argued that they were referred to in the "fairy tale", which was published in the culture and art pages of the newspaper. All together, six plaintiffs have demanded up to 21 years in prison for the journalist.

The article was published on 20 July 2005. The story began: "Once upon a time in a country, there was a president called Pinocchio in a coastal town called Sarki. Pinocchio had nine dwarves who approved all of his decisions, like a suction pump."

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