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Editor sentenced to 166 years in prison

A Turkish newspaper editor accused of being a member of the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) was sentenced to 166 years and six months in prison on 13 May, and charged with spreading PKK propaganda, report the IPS Communication Foundation (BIANET) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF). He had been facing an equally absurd 525 years in prison. The disturbing sentence comes on the heels of a new BIANET media monitoring report, which reveals that 216 people, including 69 journalists, were tried in free expression-related cases during the first three months of 2010.

Editor Vedat Kurşun was convicted on 103 counts of "helping and abetting the PKK organisation by spreading propaganda" and "glorifying crimes and criminals" in articles published in 103 issues of Turkey's only Kurdish-language newspaper, "Azadiya Welat". The court's decision is viewed as highly disproportional and politically motivated, says BIANET. RSF called the decision a clear breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, of which Turkey is a signatory.

The numbers in the BIANET report present an increase from the first quarter of 2009, when a total of 110 people were tried in free expression-related cases; 60 of those were journalists.

The report documents the cases of Vedat Kurşun and "Revolutionary Democracy" editor Erdal Güler; both are presently in prison because of their work. At least 32 journalists were in jail during the first three months of 2010 for alleged participation in illegal organisations. While ten journalists were released from prison during this time, 21 are still behind bars.

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