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Kurdish newspaper's editor sentenced to three years in prison on propaganda charges

(BIANET/IFEX) - 1 April 2010 - Former managing editor of the Kurdish newspaper "Azadiya Welat" Vedat Kurşun was sentenced to three years imprisonment by a Diyarbakır court on 30 March 2010 for "spreading propaganda for the PKK" after he published obituaries of killed PKK members and statements made by imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan.

Kurşun was convicted based on several items published in the 11 August 2007 issue. The items included an announcement of the deaths of Mazhar İlbasan, Demirci Taştekin and Vural Soydemir, members of the People's Defence Forces (HPG), an armed wing of the PKK, as the result of clashes in Tunceli; a poem for PKK members written by Nesih Özcan, and a notice saying "We are educated in front of fighters for freedom. Other charges stem from the 12 August issue, which included a long article about imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, with his photograph.

At the hearing, Kurşun was brought from the Diyarbakır D Type Prison. He said in his defence, "I do not know who the authors of these works are. The publications were not made for organizational propaganda. I made the news within the framework of freedom of information and publication."

However, Judge Hüsamettin Otçu sentenced Kurşun to three years imprisonment for violating the Anti-Terror Act (law no. 3713). Kurşun was taken back to prison after the verdict was pronounced. He has been in detention since 30 January 2009.

Kurşun is currently being tried in 32 different cases. Court Prosecutor Yakup Yar asked for a prison sentence of up to five years for spreading "propaganda for an illegal organization", based on alleged criminal content in a total of 103 issues of the newspaper. Furthermore, Yar requested imprisonment of up to another ten years for "membership in an illegal organization".

Kurşun is facing a total prison sentence of up to 525 years on 105 counts of "spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization" and "membership in a terror organization" based on the Anti-Terror Act. In his request, Yar referred to certain terms used in the articles, such as "Kurdistan", "guerrilla", "martyr", "leader of the Kurdish people" or "respectable Öcalan", as well as notes taken during an interview with Öcalan, criticism of the conditions in Imralı prison where Öcalan is serving his sentence, and announcements by PKK executives.

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