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Kurdish newspaper's editor jailed while awaiting possible trial on charges over articles

(BIANET/IFEX) - Vedat Kursun, editor of the Kurdish newspaper "Azadiya Welat", has been in police custody since 5 February 2008, accused of "continuously spreading PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party) propaganda."

The Diyarbakir Public Prosecutor has demanded that Kursun, who is also the license holder for the newspaper, be imprisoned for his alleged crime.

In deliberations at the Diyarbakir Sixth Serious Crimes Court on 25 March, prosecutor Tuncer Cetin accused the journalist of "committing a crime in the name of a criminal organisation without being a member of the organisation."

Kursun attended the hearing with five lawyers. The prosecutor has demanded Kursun be punished for offences under Articles 220/6 and 314/2 of the Penal Code, as well as Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terrorism Law.

The prosecutor has argued that the newspaper's thirteen issues from 12 September 2006 to 12 August 2007 all contained PKK propaganda. As evidence he pointed out that imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan was described as "the leader of the Kurdish people," "the leader of the KCK," "Honourable Öcalan," and "Leader Apo," and that members of the HPG, an armed group associated with the PKK, were described as "HPG guerrillas."

Kursun's lawyers have asked for time to prepare their defence, and the next hearing is on 15 April. The court had refused to release Kursun at the previous hearing on 4 March, and did so again on 25 March. The defence lawyers again objected, saying that Kursun had come to court to defend himself.

When the court decided on 5 February to order that Kursun be taken into custody, one judge, Selahaddin Menes, opposed the decision.

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