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Journalist accused of "insulting public officials" sentenced to jail term

(BIANET/IFEX) - After having rejected journalist Haci Bogatekin's apology, the Kahta Criminal Court of First Instance handed down a 2-year, 2-month and 7-day prison sentence to him, in his absence, for "insult to public officials". The journalist was in Istanbul for medical treatment at the time and only learned of the decision when he returned to Kahta. The charge came after Bogatekin accused public officials of trying to force his newspaper, "Gerger Fırat", out of business.

Judge Ercan Kumhak ruled against a mitigated or suspended sentence on the grounds that the journalist supposedly did not show any regret and attempted to prolong the trial.

Bogatekin had sent a letter to the court prior to the hearing to excuse his absence, saying he would not be able to attend because of a throat disease and that the court should issue invitations to his lawyers Turgut Kazan, Fikret Ilkiz and Celal Kizilkaya. But the court did not take Bogatekin's letter into account, saying it showed a "lack of commitment". Prosecutor Mesut Karaduman did not want to broaden his investigation any further and proceeded directly to his closing arguments. He demanded Bogatekin's conviction under article 125/1-2-3 (a) of the Turkish Criminal Code.

The conviction also deprives Bogatekin of his parental rights until he is released from prison.

Bogatekin was previously imprisoned for 109 days after accusing Gerger prosecutor Sadullah Ovacikli of having connections to Fethullah Gülen, the self-imposed exiled leader of a religious movement. Cumali Badur, a journalist with the online news site http://www.gergerim.com, is also being tried in connection with the case.

Bogatekin's latest conviction is linked to the 28 February 2008 article "Judge thwarts complot", in which the journalist wrote that Prosecutor Ovacilik, Gendarmerie Supervisor Hakan Ragip Yüceer and several police officers were holding secret meetings to attempt to force the newspaper out of business.

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