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Newspaper journalists, activist prosecuted for criticising judges

(BIANET/IFEX) - 3 February 2011 - Charges of "insult of public officials, identifying them as a target and the attempt to influence a fair trial" are being pressed against Ridvan Kaya, president of the Association for Freedom of Thought and Education Rights (Ozgur-Der), "Vakit" newspaper editor-in-chief Ahmet Can Karahasanoglu and journalist Kenan Kiran. The case is based on articles published in the "Vakit" daily that expressed criticism of various judicial decisions.

Kaya and the newspaper officials are facing prison sentences on the grounds of reports on the release of Chief Prosecutor Ilhan Cihaner and 14 defendants of the "Sledgehammer" investigation. Another article was published on 19 June 2010 and touched upon a compensation fine for judges because they did not release Mehmet Haberal, a defendant in the Ergenekon case.

The indictment prepared by Bakrikoy Prosecutor Pircan Barut Emre seeks prison terms for the defendants according to Articles 52, 125 and 288 of the Turkish Criminal Law.

The first hearing of the trial was held on 1 February 2011 at the Bakirkoy (Istanbul) 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance. It was attended by Kaya and his lawyer, Mehmet Alagoz.

Kaya said in his defence that he "used his freedom to criticism in pursuance of his social responsibility". He said he had not insulted anyone. He responded to the allegations of having "targeted" certain individuals by stating that the articles had criticised "a badly functioning mechanism, and not individuals." He added that according to the European Court of Human Rights, "freedom to criticise does not only refer to tolerable statements but also comprises unsettling, shocking and disturbing statements."

Finally he noted that judges sometimes make the wrong decisions and they should be open to criticism.

The lawyer of the Special Authority High Criminal Court judge Yilmaz Alp applied for joint plaintiff status, as did members of the Court of Appeals 11th Criminal Chamber. The case was postponed to 23 May.

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