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Newspaper confiscated for reporting allegations of police rape

(BIANET/IFEX) - After reporting 10 claims of women being raped since a new police chief came to Diyarbakır, an issue of the "Azadiya Welat" newspaper was confiscated.

The Diyarbakır 1st Criminal Court of Peace confiscated the 8 July 2009 issue of "Azadiya Welat" because it reported the claims of a 23-year-old woman who said she had been raped by men claiming to be police officers.

The news item used the Dicle News Agency (DİHA) as a source, saying that the woman was a member of the Democratic Free Women's Movement (DÖKH). The newspaper also cited representatives from the Human Rights Association (İHD), which said that four more women had made the same complaint within the last week.

Following a complaint by the Diyarbakır Police and a request from the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor, Judge Dursun Karaman decreed the confiscation of the paper. Around 1,000 copies of the issue were collected by evening.

In an article entitled "New State Policy in Diyarbakır: Rape" on pages 1 and 7 of the issue, the Kurdish-language daily reported that: "On 30 June, Mustafa Sağlam was transferred to Diyarbakır as Chief of Police. Since then, dozens of women have become victims of rape by police and have applied to the Human Rights Association."

The judge decreed that the article did not reflect the truth, was made up of lies, and incited hatred and hostility.

Ozan Kılınç, the newspaper's license holder, said that a criminal complaint regarding the claim of rape was made to the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecution on 8 July, that the prosecution had accepted the complaint and spoken to the victim. He thus described the confiscation of the newspaper as "an arbitrary decision," saying that the article reflected the truth. "We don't find this legal or democratic. Closures and confiscations cannot obstruct our publication."

Newspaper editor Emine Demir said, "It is difficult for us to publish news items which are reported on in all other media institutions. When reporting these claims, we are at the same time forced to struggle for press freedom."

The headline in the 9 July issue of the newspaper read, "Don't confiscate the newspaper, find the perpetrators."

According to the complaint made to the İHD, a young woman who was leaving her home in the Ofis neighbourhood at around 2:00 p.m. (local time) on 21 June was stopped by four plain-clothes armed police officers, saying they had come from the police headquarters. When she said that the home owner whom they were asking about was not in, they nevertheless used threats and forced her inside.

The officers searched the house but did not find anything incriminating. Two of them forced the woman to take her clothes off and sexually assaulted her, accompanied by threats and insults. They did not write a report on the house search and did not show any documents. They threatened the woman not to "get involved in such things again" and warned that "other women working in similar projects will be treated the same way."

Apart from the İHD, many women's organisations in Diyarbakır have called for a speedy investigation into the allegations and the punishment of those responsible.

On 7 July, DTP Van MP Fatma Kurtulan raised the issue in parliament.

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