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Writer ordered to pay compensation to politician over newspaper article

(BIANET/IFEX) - On 17 July 2010, writer Yalcin Ergundogan was found guilty of "insulting through the media" the chairman of the Independent Party of Turkey (BDP), Haydar Bas, who is also a Sheikh of the Kadiri religious order. The charge stems from a 2005 article published in "Birgun" newspaper. Ergundogan was ordered to pay TL 10,000 (€ 5,000) in compensation by the Istanbul 7th Civil Court of First Instance.

During the 17 July hearing, the court partially accepted Bas's compensation claim of TL 20,000. The court decreed that the fine should be paid, with interest, as of 26 April 2005 when the article on the subject, entitled "Disciples revolted against Haydar Bas", was published in the left-wing daily.

Ergundogan had been facing a prison sentence of up to two years and eight months. This is the third legal action launched against him on the grounds of the same article. He said that the complainant had originally claimed TL 30,000 in damages.

In the 2005 article, Ergundogan noted that he found it newsworthy that disciples who had supported Bas for a long time quit the order, according to information published on "The true face of Haydar Bas" web site. The writer said that he wanted to inform the public about the apparent reasons for this development.

On 28 January 2010, the Beyoglu (Istanbul) 2nd High Criminal Court handed down a TL 2,000 fine to the writer and journalist. The penalty, converted from a 105-day prison sentence, was suspended for five years. However, Ergundogan had to pay a total of TL 5,000 for costs and expenses.

In a statement made after the January decision, the writer said that he had not intended to insult anybody. "Drawing attention to the behaviour of a public person, a chairman of a political party, and criticizing his behaviour should be tolerated", Ergundogan argued.

Subsequently, the Beyoglu 4th Magistrate Civil Court decreed that TL 1,500 should be paid to Bas based on a third compensation claim of TL 5,000.

Ergundogan is also facing legal action at the Istanbul 3rd Intellectual Property Rights Court and another compensation claim of TL 15,000. The writer announced that his lawyer, Eren Keskin, is going to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in the coming days since the domestic remedies for this trial are exhausted.

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