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Prosecutor investigating journalist, actress over newspaper interview criticising "Kurdish Initiative"

IPI urges Turkish government to halt investigation, accept differing views

(IPI/IFEX) - VIENNA, 24 September 2009 - A Turkish public prosecutor has launched a criminal investigation into a celebrity and a journalist, over comments made in an interview printed in August in the daily Millyet newspaper which the authorities claim could "incite hatred and enmity," IPI's Turkish National Committee reported on Wednesday.

Devrim Sevimay, a journalist at Millyet, and Hulya Avsar, a well-known actress and singer, face prison terms if charged and found guilty of breaching Article 216 of the Turkish Criminal Code (TCK), which criminalises "inciting hatred and hostility amongst the public and humiliation of the public."

In the Millyet interview, conducted by Sevimay and printed in the newspaper on 24 and 25 August, Avsar - who is of part Turkish and part Kurdish parentage - expressed her concerns at the government's "Kurdish Initiative," - a government program aimed at removing limits on broadcasting and teaching in Kurdish while ensuring that Turkish remains the sole official language of the country.

Avsar said in the interview that it would be difficult to "convince terrorist operatives of the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party to lay down their arms."

Both Avsar and Sevimay received subpoenas from the Bakirköy public prosecutor in Istanbul on 21 September, as criminal suspects in an alleged breach of Article 216. Such a breach carries a possible three-year prison sentence.

Article 218 of the TCK, however, increases the length of the sentence if the alleged incitement crime under Article 216 was committed through the media.

Pointing out that discussion of the effectiveness of the "Kurdish Initiative" is "commonplace," IPI Turkey said in a public statement: "These comments cannot be considered a crime.

"The mentality that considers this a crime is a problematic mentality," the statement continued.

"Turkish authorities are again showing a blatant disregard for Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the right to hold and express opinions, even if these opinions conflict with those of the government," said IPI Director David Dadge. "This investigation must stop immediately and the Turkish government must exhibit greater tolerance towards those with whom it disagrees."

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