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Journalist faces criminal charges over article on soldiers' complaints

(BIANET/IFEX) - The General Staff of the Turkish military has filed a criminal complaint against journalist Umur Talu of "Sabah" newspaper for "acting in an insulting and derisive manner aimed at undermining relations between junior and senior officers and destroying trust in superiors or commanders".

The complaint is based on an article by Talu published on 12 June 2007, entitled "Is this impossible?" in which Talu wrote about the common complaints of lower-ranking soldiers.

The General Staff filed its complaint under Article 95/4 of the Military Penal Code, which allows for a sentence ranging from six months to three years. It also allows for a longer sentence when a published text is concerned, as in this case.

Talu gave a statement to the Press Prosecutor Ismail Onaran in Istanbul on 7 August.

The journalist has said that he is not upset by the trial and that he will repeat what he wrote in court. It was the reaction of the media that had surprised and disappointed him. He said that there was no solidarity from fellow journalists, who had not brought up the issue of his trial or even found it newsworthy:

"Being left alone does not stop me from expressing my ideas, but in such situations one wishes to have support from professional organisations, writers, caricaturists and journalists. If not for my sake, then for the sake of the profession."

Because of a change in the law made on 29 June 2006, Talu is being tried under the Military Penal Code by a judicial court.

The Initiative against Crimes of Thought has protested Talu's prosecution, saying that Turkey's legal system is based on adherence to inadequate laws, where the judge's discretion is secondary. As long as the laws are not changed, it does not make much difference who tries the case.

"Even if the judging institution has changed and the 'duty' of trying the case has been given to the general courts rather than military courts, civilians are still being tried by Military Penal Law, which is incongruous with the promises made in the EU reform packages."

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