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Court rules newspaper must pay heavy fine

(BIANET/IFEX) - 7 May 2010 - After a seven-year trial period, an Ankara criminal court fined "Vakit" newspaper workers Harun Aksoy and Nuri Aykon TL616,000 (approximately €308,000). The fine is to be paid to 308 generals and is related to an article that was published on 25 August 2003 and titled "The country where people who cannot become corporals become generals".

The article was signed by Asim Yenihaber, though it was allegedly written by Mehmet Doğan, former member of the Radio Television Supreme Council (RTÜK). In the final hearing on 6 May, the court decided to dismiss a compensation claim against Doğan because of "lack of hostility".

An expert familiar with the file stated that it could not be fully ascertained whether Doğan wrote the article.

Three hundred and twelve generals, including four Force Commanders, sued the pro-Islamic "Vakit" daily for publishing the article. Complainants Şahap Tuncer, Nihat İstanbullu, Reşat Turgut and Baynur Pekar passed away during the seven-year trial, thus the number of generals who would receive compensation went down to 308.

Presiding Judge Ender Arikan said that he was going to review an objection raised by an appeals court.

The newspaper's lawyer Hacı Ali Özhan told BIANET that, factoring in seven years' interest, the fine adds up to TL 1,300,000 (approximately €650,000). He announced his intention to file an appeal against the decision in the coming days.

"A newspaper can be fined for writing and publishing and article on page three. This case is very important not only in terms of press freedom, but also for its legal ramifications. It needs to be reviewed. Criticism was only voiced related to the cases of Çetin Doğan and Aytaç Yalman. All the other generals can become complainants just by saying that they have been criticised, too," he said.

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