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Court fines newspaper, columnist over disclosure of sensitive information in article

(BIANET/IFEX) - An Ankara civil court has fined "Birgun" newspaper and its columnist, Fikri Saglar, on charges of having attacked the personal rights of former chief of staff, General Yasar Buyukanit, and his wife, Filiz Buyukanit, in a column by Saglar entitled, "Was Buyukanit given a file?"

The court accepted the suit for damages in the amount of 50,000 Euros (approx. US$65,000), but fined the newspaper and columnist only 8,500 Euros (approx. US$11,000).

The column in question, which appeared in "Birgun" on 15 May 2008, claimed that the prime minister gave a file to then Chief of Staff General Buyukanit regarding his wife's spending habits in a meeting that took place at Dolmabahce Palace. The contents of the file were supposedly secret.

The lawyers for all of the parties involved - Levent Kocer for Buyukanit and his wife, Osman Oguzhan for Saglar, and Mehdi Bektas for "Birgun" - were present at the sentencing.

The head of the court, Judge Beyhan Azmen, rejected a recusal request presented by Oguzhan, saying that its purpose was to prolong the trial.

A request for information presented by Oguzhan with respect to documents that were found in the house of another official, General Hursit Tolon, in connection with a separate investigation, was also rejected.

Kocer, Buyukanit's lawyer, told the court that the Military Prosecutor's Office gave them a copy of the search documents from Tolon's house and that no information or documents pertaining to his clients were found.

While stating that they would not present a recusal request, "Birgun"'s lawyer Bektas argued that the newspaper had published the information for the good of the public and therefore he argued that the case should have been dismissed. The court decided there was no need to present a request for the documents found in Tolon's house and sentenced both "Birgun" and Saglar to pay 5,000 Euros (approx. US$6,500) to Yasar Buyukanit and 3,500 Euros (approx. US$4,500) to Filiz Buyukanit.

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