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Journalist sentenced to one year and three months in prison for opposing imposition of "terrorist" label on Kurdish group

(BIANET/IFEX) - At a press conference held together with his lawyer, Anyt Baba, at the Istanbul branch of the Human Rights Association, journalist Veysi Sarysozen protested the prison sentence handed down to him for his criticism of the imposition of the "terrorist" label in describing the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

The one year plus three months prison sentence given to Sarysozen by the 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul on 13 October 2008 was based on an accusation against the journalist of "trying to legitimise the activities of the PKK by claiming that it represents a segment of the population and is the organisation leading the revolt launched by the people it represents, which constitutes carrying out propaganda for the armed PKK terrorist organisation."

Pointing to the speed of his prosecution, which was launched based on a complaint by the General Staff, Sarysozen said the PKK did not need his praise.

Baba, Sarysozen's lawyer, said they are appealing the decision and argued that if the Supreme Court of Appeals approves the sentence it will mean that no perspective other than the "denialist official one" about the Kurdish problem will be allowed.

While publisher and journalist Ragyp Zarakolu emphasised that freedom of expression is under threat in Turkey, Filiz Kocali, president of the Socialist Democracy Party (SDP), said there has been an attempt to eliminate the perspective of a democratic and peaceful solution to the Kurdish problem. Moreover, Gulseren Yoleri, the head of the Istanbul branch of the Human Rights Association, indicated that the state has not shown patience for any option other than the militarist one.

Sarysozen was accused of writing the following words in an article entitled "Etc., Etc.", which was published in "Gundem" newspaper on 12 November 2007: "Banning words is incompatible with the principle of the rule of law. For example, calling the PKK a terrorist organisation cannot be imposed. We have the right to create a different description. We see the PKK as the political and military organisation of the last Kurdish uprising. We are not saying they are innocent, what they have been doing is legal, ( . . . ). We are creating a different description. Can't we do this? Etc., etc."

Sarysozen is also on trial for another article entitled "Is it terror or war?", which appeared in "Gundem" on 14 June 2007. In this second case, he has been accused of writing propaganda for the PKK by describing it as an organisation in rebellion. Sarysozen is facing one and a half years in prison under article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Law. The trial will continue at the 10th High Criminal Court on 10 March 2009.

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