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Court case against writer, editor and magazine owner dropped on technicality

(BIANET/IFEX) - The court case against sociologist Ismail Besikci, "Esmer" magazine owner Ferzende Kaya, and the magazine's editor, Mehmet Ali Izmir, has been dropped because of "lapse of time". The three had been charged under Article 216 of the Turkish Penal Code for "inciting hatred and hostility" because of an article Besikci wrote in the magazine. Sentences of four and a half years were being demanded for each of the defendants.

Besikci's article was entitled "We did not talk, we were suppressed" and was published in the December 2005 issue of the "Popüler Kürtür Esmer" ("Popular Kurture Dark"), a pro-Kurdish magazine published in Turkish and Kurdish.

Ironically, the case was dropped on Human Rights Day (10 December) because the case had not been opened within the stipulated two months from the date when the issue of the magazine was delivered to the prosecution.

Besikci's lawyer, Mükrime Tepe, evaluated the decision for BIANET, saying: "We expected this decision. We kept drawing attention to the issue of time. The prosecutor preparing the indictment should have taken this issue into account."

The Bakirköy Second Penal Court, which calculated the relevant time period from the time a letter from the Istanbul Public Prosecution was sent, decreed that no case had been opened within the stipulated time. Citing Article 26 of Press Law No. 5187, which was passed in June 2004 and deals with the duration of court cases, the court dropped the case.

According to the legal article, "Criminal court cases related to crimes committed in published works . . . have to be opened within two months for periodicals and within four months for other works."

According to Dr. Mehmet Emin Artuk, a lecturer in the law faculty of Marmara University in Istanbul, Besikci's article did not represent a crime under Article 301, although "some expressions could represent the crime of 'inciting hatred and hostility among the public'". Based on this expert input, prosecutor Remzi Yasar Kizilhan prepared an indictment against Besikci and the magazine representatives under Article 216.

When Besikci has written in the past about Kurdish issues in the "Özgür Gündem" newspaper and in his books published by Yurt Publications, he was also put on trial.

Besikci, some of whose books are still banned, has spent years in prison. He was released under Conditional Amnesty Law No. 4304.

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