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Prime minister files lawsuit against writer and newspaper

(BIANET/IFEX) - Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has filed a lawsuit against writer Ahmet Altan and "Taraf" newspaper. BIANET notes that the prime minister recently launched a case against the Beyoglu Troupe of Actors and prior to that, against writers Ataol Behramoglu and Oktay Eksi. Erdogan is now claiming TL50,000 (€ 25,000) in compensation from Altan and "Taraf", on charges of "attacking his personal rights".

The litigation is based on a column by Altan, entitled "Erdogan and the hollow bullying", published in the paper's 15 January 2011 edition.

The prime minister's lawyers, Fatih Sahin and Muammer Cemaloglu, prepared the trial petition. It argues that Altan's column contained "extraordinary severe insults with the intention to attack Erdogan's personal rights".

The petition claims that the expressions and criticism conveyed in the journalist's article exceeded the limits of freedom of expression. It reads, "Erdogan was clearly accused of not being honest and betraying the people's trust."

The petition continues, "Considering the situation of the defendant, he could have written about this topic without using these harsh expressions that were used against my client and that will be perceived by the readers as an insult. He could have written a more efficient article that would have served the purpose of the press".

At the same time, Erdogan's joint attorneys sent another petition to the Ankara Public Chief Prosecution calling for another lawsuit against Altan under allegations of "insult". The complaint will be forwarded to the Kadikoy (Istanbul) Public Chief Prosecution.

In another trial, the prime minister and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) are pressing charges against poet and writer Behramoglu. This compensation claim stems from statements uttered by Behramoglu during a television programme.

On 12 January 2011, the writer was a guest on the "Neutral Zone" (Tarafsiz Bolge) programme, broadcast on the Turkish news channel CNN Turk. The trial will continue before the Ankara 15th Civil Court of First Instance on 22 March.

The following statement by Behramoglu is the bone of contention: "I do not say that AKP will not hold the elections. Yet, in my opinion they did everything, visible and invisible, to prevent elections by illegal and anti-democratic means".

Moreover, Erdogan has filed a case against Eksi on the grounds of the journalist's written criticism of the construction of hydroelectric power plants (HES). Eksi is charged with "insult" and faces imprisonment of up to six years. The first hearing is scheduled for 15 February.

Finally, on 21 January, the court began hearing the case filed by the prime minister against 16 members of the Beyoglu Troupe of Actors, most of them university students.

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