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Kurdish daily's former editor convicted on terrorist propaganda charge

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders firmly condemns the "insane" sentence of 166 years and six months in prison which a court in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir passed on 13 May 2010 on Vedat Kursun, the former editor of Turkey's only Kurdish-language daily, "Azadiya Welat".

Kursun was convicted under articles 314-3 and 220-6 of the criminal code and article 7-2 of the anti-terrorism law on charges of membership of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), regarded by the Turkish government as a terrorist organisation, and spreading PKK propaganda.

"This sentence is absurd," Reporters Without Borders said. "We support Kursun's colleagues, who say this was a political trial. We regret the attitude of the Turkish judicial authorities, who are deliberately violating the rights that are protected by the European Convention on Human Rights although Turkey is a signatory."

In the final hearing, Kursun's lawyers tried to make the jury understand that the conviction requested by prosecutor Yavup Var violated laws protecting freedom of expression. They also insisted that Turkey should respect the undertakings it has given to the Council of Europe.

Kursun had been facing a possible sentence of 525 years in prison. Although the sentence he was given was much less, it is no less absurd and undermines the credibility not only of this court but also of Turkey's entire judicial system.

Reporters Without Borders calls for Kursun's release and urges the European Union to condemn this verdict.

Held since his arrest at Istanbul airport on 30 January, Kursun was given such a long sentence in part because he was convicted on a total of 103 counts of publishing PKK propaganda. An additional 12 years for membership of the PKK rounded off the total of 166 years in jail for just doing his job as a journalist. Aged 36, he would have to live to the age of 202 to complete the sentence.

"Azadiya Welat" has repeatedly been the target of prosecutions and seizures of its issues. Ozan Kilinç, who took over as its editor after Kursun was tried and convicted on similar charges in 2009, was himself sentenced to 21 years and 3 months in prison on 10 February.
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