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Journalists, politicians in court for referring to army's alleged use of chemical weapons against PKK

(BIANET/IFEX) - Trials of journalists and politicians for violations of the Turkish criminal code's controversial Article 301 are continuing, despite government assurances to the European Union (EU) that the article will be significantly modified or abolished.

Dutch member of the European Parliament Joost Lagendijk, chair of the EU Joint Parliamentary Committee with Turkey, recently stated that Europe has begun to understand that the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) does not want to work towards a solution of the Kurdish question.

"There are reforms, and the DTP (the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party) is in parliament. It is unacceptable under these conditions that the PKK uses terrorism."

Speaking on the "Capital City Backstage" programme of television channel 7, Lagendijk said that he had discussed the controversial Article 301 with several representatives, first of all with Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Babacan. He has been told that action would be taken.

According to Lagendijk, "if Article 301 is abolished or changed substantially, this would make our job much easier. That is why we are so insistent on this issue. The Turkish government is increasingly aware of this. I am hopeful that there will be changes in 301 within the year."

However, while Turkey is making promises to the outside world, trials under Article 301 continue.

The Ankara Chief Public Prosecution has opened a trial against Nurettin Demirtas, chair of the DTP, and Selma Irmak, a member of the same party, for a flyer handed out on Peace Day on 1 September 2007.

The flyer read, "In one part of our country there are violent operations of annihilation, and all our efforts to build a road of peace are demolished by military operations."

Referring to the dead bodies of 11 PKK fighters, which were not handed over to their families after a military operation in Uludere, a municipality in Sirnak province, the flyer also said, "The fact that various excuses were used to justify not handing the bodies over to the families adds credence to the claim that chemical weapons were used during the operation."

Demirtas and Irmak have been charged with "denigrating the Republic" under Article 301/1 and "denigrating the state's armed forces" under Article 301/2. Punishments from between one and five years' imprisonment are being demanded. It was argued in the indictment that the flyer went beyond expressing a thought or opinion, and rather represented a judgment.

The case will be heard by the Ankara Nineteenth Penal Court.

Another politician and a newspaper have also been charged for alleging chemical weapons were used.

Atilla Kaya, former chair of the Socialist Democracy Party (SDP), has been charged under Article 301/2 and under Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terrorism Law for saying in a press statement on 30 March 2006 that chemical weapons were used.

Two representatives of the "Ülkede Özgür Gündem" newspaper are also on trial. The newspaper had covered Kaya's claim, which was based on a report by the Human Rights Association (IHD), and had also published other articles about the matter.

Kaya and the newspaper's representatives will appear again before the Istanbul Twelfth Serious Crimes Court on 24 March 2008. The case was first heard by a penal court and Kaya had said then, "As a representative of a political party I wanted these grave accusations to be investigated. First of all they were not investigated, and then I was put on trial."

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