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Publisher ordered to pay fine instead of going to jail for "defaming and belittling the state"

(BIANET/IFEX) - Fatih Tas, the former owner of Aram Publishers, was charged with "defaming and belittling the state" and sentenced to five months in prison by an Istanbul criminal court for publishing a biography of Nazim Babaoglu, a Kurdish journalist who disappeared while in police custody. The court, however, converted the sentence to a fine of TRY 1,650 (approx. US$1,100).

The judges argued that certain phrases in the book violated Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code. However, they decided to base their ruling on the provisions of the former Article 159, which was replaced by Article 301, as the measures in the former article were more favourable to the defendant. If Article 301 had been applied Tas would have been fined TRY 3000 (approx. US$2,000).

The book, titled "They Say You Have Disappeared," was based on the life story of Babaoglu, a local Sanliurfa reporter for the pro-Kurdish daily "Ozgür Gündem" who disappeared while in police custody. Tas was prosecuted for "defaming and belittling the state" because the book contained the expression "the state-mafia gang links" and the phrases ". . . bursting on the Kurdish people with brutality" and "minor massacres like those committed under bloody fascist dictatorships."

The court, lead by judge Sevim Efendiler, decided not to suspend the sentence as "the defendant did not give assurances that he would not commit a similar crime in the future."

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