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Reporter dies under suspicious circumstances, MP calls for inquiry

(BIANET/IFEX) - Sevahir Bayindir, MP of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) in Şirnak (south-eastern Turkey), brought the case of the suspicious death of journalist Metin Alataş to parliament. The body of 34-year-old Alataş, distributor of the Kurdish "Azadiya Welat" newspaper, was found in Adana (south-eastern Turkey) on 4 April 2010.

Bayindir submitted an inquiry to parliament which is due to be examined by Minister of the Interior Beşir Atalay. The BDP MP asked whether an investigation has been launched into crimes committed against media professionals.

On 3 April, Alataş distributed copies of the "Azadiya Welat" daily in Hadirli district. He left the district at around 2:00 p.m. and was not seen nor heard of afterwards. The following day, his body was found hanging from a tree.

The preliminary autopsy report stated that strangulation was the cause of death. The journalist's body did not show any signs of beating such as injuries and bruises. the prosecutor reportedly found an unfinished letter near where the body was found. The final report from the Forensic Medicine Institute will be issued in about two months.

Hakki Boltan, diplomacy service editor of "Azadiya Welat", told BIANET that the investigation has not revealed any new findings yet. However, Boltan said that newspaper employees and Alataş's family members and friends doubt that this was a suicide. "Alataş was killed by illegal forces or he was forced to commit suicide," Boltan argued.

"When Alataş was found dead, the prosecution did not contact his family first, but the printing house of the newspaper in Adana. Two days prior to the incident, his bicycle was stolen. In the recent past, Alataş had told his colleagues, 'They are observing and threatening me. Something might happen.' No ID was found with the dead body. These are the reasons why we have doubts about some things he experienced before his death. None of his family members and friends nor anybody who has spend 24 hours together with him believes that he committed suicide," Boltan added.

Newspaper officials reported that Alataş had been the subject of an assault four months earlier and had previously claimed to be threatened. Five unidentified people approached him in a car with an Adana number plate and attacked him while he was distributing newspaper copies in front of the BDP building on 22 December 2009. Atalaş was beaten and had to undergo medical treatment in hospital.

Atalaş filed a criminal complaint at the Adana Public Prosecution and claimed that he was constantly being observed. However, no action was taken.

Newspaper representative Ali Kalik said at Alataş's funeral that this attack remained unpunished, "The investigation was closed even though the car's number plate was known."

MP Bayindir asked Minister Atalay in his inquiry whether any action was taken regarding a supposed connection between the two incidents and if so, what results came out of the investigation.

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