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"Gündem" newspaper suspended for 30 days for publishing two articles by Kurdish leader

(BIANET/IFEX) - The Istanbul 12th Penal Court has decreed that "Gündem" newspaper be suspended for 30 days as punishment for publishing two articles by Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Murat Karayilan. The newspaper was charged with spreading PKK propaganda, under the Anti-Terrorism Law.

Editor-in-chief Yüksel Genc pointed out that the newspaper was being punished under a law that President Ahmet Necdet Sezer sent to the Constitutional Court. He added, "It is difficult to understand that our publication is being stopped for the fourth time by an Article which tramples on freedom of the press. The continuing penalties exacted under this law show again that Turkey is a problematic country as far as freedom of the press and expression are concerned."

In one article, published on 2 September 2007 and entitled "Let us become populist, let us win", Karayilan wrote: "We are a movement which is only based on its own strength." He declared that the PKK "got its power from society and relies on the people".

On the next day, in a second article entitled "Self-criticism not in words but in practice", Karayilan pointed out mistakes made by the "Free Citizen Movement" and called for self-criticism.

In response to the closure ruling, Siirt MP Osman Özcelik of the Democratic Society Party (DTP) said, "If people are killed when it is said that there is zero tolerance of torture, if newspapers are closed when the freedom of press is talked about, then this is thought-provoking. It is clear that the Justice and Development Party (AKP) is only talking about the EU norms. We will take this to Parliament."

DTP MP Hasip Kaplan from Sirnak added that the government's new programme purports to seek an intensification of the EU accession process and full guarantees for freedom of expression: "This ruling shows that there is no tolerance of opposition voices, and basic rights and freedoms are limited under the Anti-Terrorism Law."

DTP MP Akin Birdal from Diyarbakir said that he would take the issue to the Human Rights Commission in Parliament: "In Ankara there are oppressive policies to shut the people up. We support 'Gündem' to the last."

Aysel Tugluk of the DTP added, "Such actions damage democracy. We will not allow the people's voice to be silenced."

Gündem newspaper has been closed three times before in 2007: on 6 March for 30 days, on 9 April for 15 days, on 12 July for 15 days.

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