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Two journalists on trial for publishing confidential documents

(BIANET/IFEX) - 17 February 2010 - The case against "Vatan" newspaper journalist Kemal Göktaş on the grounds of his book "The Hrant Dink Murder: Media, Judiciary, State" has started. The prosecutor requested time to review whether the case was opened within the prescription period of four months.

"Vatan" newspaper journalist Kemal Göktaş is facing a five-year prison sentence at the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance for his book entitled "The Hrant Dink Murder: Media, Judiciary, State". The book reveals background information on the murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink in 2007.

Göktaş was supported in the hearing on 16 February 2010 at the Istanbul Sultanahmet Courthouse by "Milliyet" newspaper journalist Nedim Şener. Şener himself is facing 32.5 years' imprisonment for his book, which also deals with the Dink murder.

Şener told BIANET, "I am not here to support the political power but to support the victims. It will be my duty to defend Akyürek's rights if he is in fact a victim or treated unjustly." Journalist Göktaş was furthermore supported by human rights activists Özlem Dalkıran and Füsun Çelikel and by Ani Aba and Takuş Kalk from the "Group of Hrant's Friends."

Lawyer Filiz Aydın requested to drop the case by prescription, referring to the statute of limitation of the case initially filed by Intelligence Office President Ramazan Akyürek and the Police General Directorate: "The case should be rejected because it is time-barred. The case was opened on 30 September 2009. Yet, the prescription period of four months ran out on 24 August 2009. We will forward further requests later on."

The case was postponed to 11 May to hear prosecutor Atilla Ayvacı's evaluation of the statute of limitation of the file in the next session. Göktaş is on trial for having published an F4 document in his book, which was sent from the Trabzon Police Directorate to the Istanbul Intelligence Branch Directorate and expresses concern with Yasin Hayal being up to "an influential action" related to Hrant Dink.

The Istanbul 11th High Criminal Court also tried "Milliyet" newspaper journalist Nedim Şener on the grounds of his book "The Dink Murder and the Intelligence Lies", in which he criticizes the Turkish gendarmerie, police and secret service with respect to the killing of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink. Şener stands accused for "publishing a classified document."

In the hearing on 17 February, the 11th court inquired about information from the Istanbul 14th High Criminal Court, where the Hrant Dink murder case was heard, as to whether the "classified" document was read during one of the hearings.

Şener is facing a total prison sentence of 32.5 years in three different cases concerning his book about the Dink murder. "I particularly wrote this book upon the motion of the inspection reports related to the neglect of public officials like Ramazan Akyürek towards religious murder. Which journalist asks for permission from court to obtain a classified document?" the journalist argued.

The hearing was attended by PEN Writers Union Secretary General Eugene Schoulgin, brother of assassinated Hrant Dink Orhan Dink, human rights activist Özlem Dalkıran and defendant Kemal Göktaş to express their support for Şener. Göktaş appeared in court the previous day for his own hearing in the context of the very same charges of publishing a "confidential document".

Şener stands trial under charges of exposing public officials struggling against terror as targets for terror organizations and of publishing a confidential document. The case is to be continued on 28 April. Schoulgin commented, "These trials cannot be perceived as separate cases. This is a demonstration of power against journalists. In the rest of Europe, it is not a crime to write about these kinds of cases. The different speed between the progression of the murder case and the cases against the journalists is most disturbing."

"The judges should urgently be trained accordingly if they are so sensitive about the writings of the journalists."

The complaint about journalist Şener was filed by Head of Intelligence Office Ramazan Akyürek, Intelligence Office Directorate police officer Muhittin Zenit, Trabzon Intelligence Branch Manager Fatih Sarı and Istanbul Police Directorate Deputy Chief Ali Fuat Yılmazer.

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