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Editor sentenced to lengthy jail term; journalist's prison sentence converted to fine

(BIANET/IFEX) - The Adiyaman Kahta Criminal Court of First Instance in southeast Turkey has sentenced journalists Haci Bogatekin and Cumali Badur to five years and to six months in prison, respectively, on charges relating to comments they made about former Gerger prosecutor Sadullah Ovacikli's alleged close relationship with religious leader Fethullah Gülen. Bogatekin was sentenced under articles 125 and 288 of the Turkish Criminal Code (TCK) and was also deprived of many of his political and civil rights. Badur's sentence was converted to a fine of TL 3,000 (approx. € 1,500).

Another decision announced by the court on 2 March 2010 concerned Bogatekin's son, Özgür Bogatekin, who received a one-year, two-month and 17-day prison sentence because he intervened against police violence.

Haci Bogatekin was arrested on 13 April 2008 in relation to his allegations against the former prosecutor and was detained for 109 days in the Kahta Prison.

Bogatekin, the editor-in-chief of the Gerger "Firat" newspaper, commented on the decision: "This is the heaviest punishment imposed on a journalist in the 56-year history of (the province of) Adiyaman."

In one of his articles, Bogatekin voiced his opinion that the real danger does not originate from the militant Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) but rather from Fethullah Gülen's congregation. In the same article, he also referred to imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan as "Apo" and to religious leader Gülen as "Feto". Subsequently, Bogatekin also published Ovacikli's reaction to his article. The prosecutor apparently said, "How dare you call the Prophet Fethullah Gülen 'Feto'. You will apologise for that in the coming issue." Bogatekin was charged with "insult", "defamation" and "attempting to influence a fair trial". The court did not consider suspension or conversion of the sentence into a fine.

Meanwhile, Badur commented on the allegations about Ovacikli, which had been put forward by BIANET as well, on the news site. He was fined TL 3,000 based on an accusation of "attempting to influence a fair trial".

The Malatya 3rd High Criminal Court sentenced Bogatekin to another year and a half in prison on charges of "spreading PKK propaganda" relating to his article about "Feto" and "Apo".

Bogatekin was handed a total prison sentence of 10 years, eight months and 14 days relating to cases opened against him after the publication of the article. Three of those decisions are pending review at the Court of Appeals. The journalist said he will file another appeal of the latest decision.

Together with Ilhan Selçuk, Bogatekin was awarded the 2008 Press Freedom Award, a joint award given by the Turkish Journalists' Society (TGC) and the Communication Association of Turkey. He was given an award by the Contemporary Journalists' Association (ÇGD) on 16 March 2009.

Bogatekin announced that he complained about the trial judge, Ercan Kumhak, to the Supreme Board of Prosecutors and Judges (HSYK) and the Ministry of Justice in January 2010. The ministry, however, refused to consider the complaint. Bogatekin filed an appeal of the refusal with the Ankara Administrative Court on 17 January.

On 26 February, the journalist filed a request with the High Criminal Court, asking for the judge to be recused from the case. Yet, it was Judge Kumhak who issued the 2 March ruling in the journalist's case.

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