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Journalists face prison sentences on charges of "distributing propaganda for an illegal organisation"

(BIANET/IFEX) - "Taraf" newspaper journalist Nese Duzel and editor-in-chief Adnan Demir are facing prison sentences based on interviews with Zubeyir Aydar and Remzi Kartal, executives of Kongra Gel, a parliament-like structure of the Democratic Confederation of Kurdistan (KCK), an umbrella organization that includes the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The interviews were part of the national daily newspaper's series "Monday Talks". The first hearing in the case was held before the Istanbul 11th High Criminal Court on 10 November 2010.

The interviews, lead by Duzel, were published on 5-7 April in three sections entitled, "A period of conflict was entered". The prosecution has demanded prison sentences of up to seven and a half years for each of the defendants.

Defence lawyer Veysel Ok claimed in court that his clients used their right to freedom of the press as enshrined in provisions of the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.

Duzel and Demir have been charged under Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Law with "making propaganda in connection with an illegal organization". Duzel stated in the hearing, "I did not make propaganda for an illegal organization. To the contrary, I made political propaganda." He also pointed out that the government has been talking to the "organization" (the PKK/KCK). The trial was adjourned to 2 March 2011.

Duzel spoke to Aydar a few days after several people were arrested and subsequently released in Belgium in the course of a police operation against the Kurdish television satellite channel ROJ TV. Aydar was also residing in Belgium at the time. He left Turkey 16 years ago, after the pro-Kurdish Democracy Party (DEP) was banned by the Constitutional Court in 1994. He has lived abroad ever since.

Istanbul Public Prosecutor Hakan Karaali alleged that "the contents of the interviews imply to readers that resorting to violence is a necessary and rightful measure." The indictment claims that the thoughts voiced in the interviews cannot be evaluated within the scope of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (Freedom of Expression). The prosecution stated that this freedom could be restricted in cases where it serves national security and territorial integrity interests, protects public safety, secures public order and prevents crime.

Trials against Duzel were pending for years at the State Security Court (DGM) on the basis of interviews published in "Radikal" newspaper on issues relating to the Kurdish or Armenian questions.

It was also the Istanbul 11th High Criminal Court that sentenced journalist Irfan Aktan, of "Express" magazine, to a year and three months behind bars on the basis of his article entitled, "Weather conditions in the region and in Qandil - no solution without fighting". "Express" editor-in-chief Merve Erol was fined TL 16,000 (approx. €8,000) based on an article published in the 99th issue of the magazine on 15 October 2009.

The Anti-Terror Law was one of the main areas of concern in the context of press freedom and freedom of expression mentioned in the 2010 Turkey Progress Report issued by the European Union Commission on 9 November.

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