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Three journalists indicted following publication of critical article

(BIANET/IFEX) - "Star" newspaper reporter Helin Sahin is being prosecuted along with the daily's editor-in-chief, Ibrahim Sarp, and the editor of the paper's website, Saffet Serdar Akbiyik, based on the criticism of the mass release of detained defendants in the "Sledgehammer" case voiced in a news item. The "Sledgehammer" ("Balyoz") coup plot was planned by a group of people in the armed forces in 2002 and 2003. Its aim was to create disorder in the country by bombing mosques, crashing a Turkish jet and having warplanes fly over the parliament, which was to eventually lead to martial law and a coup.

The first hearing in the case against the journalists was held before the Istanbul 14th High Criminal Court on 8 October 2010.

Sahin requested the recusal of the appointed judge because he had said "I will turn you in" to the journalist in the course of a trial regarding another news item.

Sahin has been indicted on charges of "identifying officials on anti-terror duties as targets" under Article 6/1 of the Anti-Terror Law (TMY) based on the news item in question.

Akbiyik and Sarp were dismissive of the charges pressed against them. Sarp said, "The news item did not contain any defamatory material or lies, nor did it identify anybody as a target."

Sahin requested the recusal of the judge at the beginning of his defence. He explained that he had a prior discussion with Judge Erkan Canak in a case related to a news item published on 18 June. Canak chaired the court board and allegedly threatened Sahin by saying, "I will turn you in." Sahin expressed his concern that the judge would not be objective in the current case due to the personal problems between them. After a brief intermission, Court President Canak adjourned the case until 22 October to evaluate Sahin's demand.

Sahin argued, "It is embarrassing to be in the dock of a court where I was working myself for two years following the prosecution of the Ergenekon defendants. Everybody was very surprised to hear that I am being tried because of an alleged infraction of the Anti-Terror Law. Finding myself at a court dealing with a terrorism charge when I was just fulfilling my duty as a journalist is beyond belief, in addition to the fact that I am facing a judge who threatened me. Anyway, I have to nonetheless defend myself and so I will."

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