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Turkey sentences Kurdish newspaper editor to 21 years in prison

(IPI/IFEX) - Vienna, 12 February 2010 - A Turkish court on 10 February sentenced the editor of a Kurdish newspaper to 21 years in prison for publishing what the court called Kurdish propaganda, only two weeks after the European Court of Human Rights ordered Turkey to pay over 40,000 Euros to 20 Turkish journalists as compensation for having violated their rights.

A court in Diyarbakir, in the mostly Kurdish southeast region of Turkey, found Ozan Kilinc, editor and publisher of the Azadiya Welat daily, guilty of disseminating "propaganda of a terrorist organization" by publishing reports and pictures on the outlawed Turkey Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and its jailed leader in 12 separate issues in June last year, AFP and other news outlets reported.

The judges issued an arrest warrant for the editor, who was not present in the courtroom.

"Too often the authorities in Turkey and elsewhere use anti-terrorism laws to restrict press freedom," said IPI Director David Dadge. "This is unacceptable. As the European Court of Human rights and other international bodies have often stated, banning newspapers and jailing journalists amounts to government censorship of the media."

Azadiya Welat has often been the target of judicial action by Turkish authorities for allegedly acting as a mouthpiece of the PKK, which is considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey and much of the international community, including the European Union and the United States. The daily has had to replace six editors since it started publishing in 2006 because the editors had to either flee the country to avoid imprisonment or were jailed, Reuters reported.

Azadiya Welat's previous editor, Vedat Kursum, has been in jail for the past 13 months. He is currently on trial, facing more than 20 cases of allegedly spreading rebel propaganda, praising criminals and aiding and abetting rebels, the Turkish press freedom organisation Bianet reported.

On 28 January this year, IPI welcomed a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights stating that Turkey had violated Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights when it suspended five newspapers and sentenced a magazine editor to prison over an article criticizing prison brutality.

In IPI's World Press Freedom Review 2009, launched on Thursday 11 February, IPI Director Dadge expressed concerns regarding Turkey's consistently poor attitude towards press freedom and use of laws to prosecute journalists, including Article 301 - which bans "insults" to the Turkish state.
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