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Mayor fined after referring to PKK leader as "respectable"

(BIANET/IFEX) - The İskenderun (eastern Mediterranean Coast) 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance sentenced Democratic Society Party (DTP) İskenderun District Mayor Mahmut Aydıncı to three months' imprisonment after he referred to Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the militant Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), as "respectable". Ersen Korkmaz, the owner of "Demokrat" newspaper, was acquitted in the same trial.

Both defendants were charged with "praising crime and criminals", according to article 215 of the Turkish Criminal Code (TCK). The court took into account Aydıncı's "positive attitude throughout the trial" and mitigated the sentence to two months and 15 days before converting it into a TL 1,500 (715 €) monetary fine.

In the final speech of the prosecution, Public Prosecutor Ahmet Kara pointed out that Korkmaz quoted the press release without making any changes to it. According to the prosecutor, the defendant did not have any criminal intent and the publication remained within the boundaries of press freedom. Kara demanded the acquittal of Korkmaz. Regarding Aydıncı, Kara claimed that addressing Öcalan as "respectable" was sufficient for the proof of a crime.

Korkmaz and Aydıncı are facing imprisonment of up to three years in another case of an article published on 18 November 2008 which suggested that "closing Imrali Prison (. . .) should be taken seriously for the great contribution it would make to social peace." The trial opened on 24 December 2008.

Another trial involving Korkmaz has been pending for six years. He has been charged under article 159 of the former TCK over a news item entitled, "The Kurdish leaders were taken and delivered to the Fascists" about a panel discussion organized by the Turkish Communist Party (TKP).

Korkmaz and TKP official Necmettin Salaz, originator of the phrase, are facing three years' imprisonment on charges of "insulting and ridiculing the military".

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