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Journalist acquitted in "insult to president" case

(BIANET/IFEX) - On 9 June 2010, the Kadikoy (Istanbul) 7th Criminal Court acquitted Baris Yarkadas, an executive of the GercekGundem.com website, of a charge of "insulting the president". Yarkadas had been facing imprisonment for publishing a reader comment sent under the pseudonym "Türkeli27", which allegedly criticised President Abdullah Gül. The comment related to a statement by Armenian President Serj Sarkisyan, who had said, "I am not going to Turkey, irrespective of whether the borders are open or closed." Yarkadas was tried after he published the reader's comment saying that "Sarkisyan challenged Turkey because of the attitude of President Abdullah Gül." The comment was attached to a news item dated 24 April 2009.

The court declared that the comment was "within the acceptable limits of criticism" and was not written by Yarkadas himself. Yarkadas had been facing a prison term of up to five years and four months under article 299 of the Turkish Criminal Code.

The trial was opened based on a complaint filed with the Ministry of Justice by the Presidential Legal Council. The Ministry of Justice then brought the case to the attention of the Bakırköy Public Prosecutor's Office.

Public Prosecutor Bayram Albayrak pleaded for the acquittal of the journalist and Judge Tahsin Dogan complied with his request.

The Ankara deputy for the Republican People's Party (CHP), Nesrin Baytok, brought the case against Yarkadas to the agenda of parliament. Baytok questioned whether the trial would "narrow the limits of freedom for the expression of opinions." She demanded disclosure of statistics relating to the number of similar investigations opened against journalists in Turkey. The Ministry of Justice has not yet replied to her request.

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