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Two journalists sentenced to more than seven years in prison for covering banned demonstration

(BIANET/IFEX) - 28 February 2011 - Prison terms of more than 204 years in total were the verdicts for 25 defendants who attended a demonstration in October 2008. Journalist Vedat Yilidiz from the Dicle News Agency (DIHA) and "Guneydogu Ekspres" (South-east Express) newspaper reporter Lokman Dayan were among those convicted in a hearing which took place on 24 February. Yilidiz and Dayan were attending the protest march on assignment.

Defence lawyer Veysel Vesek requested the acquittal of his clients at a previous hearing which was not attended by the defendants.

The 21 October 2008 demonstration in Idil (south-eastern province of Sirnak) was organized in response to a violent attack on the imprisoned leader of the armed and outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), Abdullah Ocalan. At some point Yilidiz and Dayan, who were at the protest to report about it, became involved in a conflict with the police. They were beaten and subsequently taken into custody.

The Diyarbakir 4th High Criminal Court handed down prison sentences of seven years and eleven months each to 25 out of 26 defendants, including Yilidiz and Dayan.

The defendants stood trial on charges which included "membership in an illegal organization" and "opposing Law No. 2911 on Meetings and Demonstrations". Twenty-five of the 26 were sentenced to six years and one month in jail.
Furthermore, the journalists and six other defendants were each sentenced to an additional ten months in prison on charges of "spreading propaganda for an illegal organization".

Vesek has announced his intention to appeal the decision.

Yilidiz claims he suffered bruises and swelling following the heavy-handed police attack. After being taken into custody, he was released by prosecution the same day. He later filed a complaint against the police forces over the attack.

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The use of criminal law to silence people who write about public issues is a significant problem in many countries…

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