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Journalist faces complaint for interview with PKK leader

(BIANET/IFEX) - 14 March 2011 - A trial was opened against "Radikal" newspaper reporter Ertugrul Mavioglu following the filing of a complaint with the Istanbul Chief Prosecution.

Mavioglu stands accused of "spreading propaganda for an illegal organization" on the grounds of his interview with Murat Karayilan, leader of the armed outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), at the Qandil Mountain, the location of the PKK's base in northern Iraq.

Mavioglu evaluated this latest development in an interview with BIANET as follows: "We have come to a point where they open trials against us for whatever we write. This becomes clear when a court case is even launched because of this news item, regardless of what [Prime Minister] Tayyip Erdogan said about the freedom of expression report [of the European Parliament]. Even articles that contain nothing but news are being targeted by the government."

Mavioglu is facing five years in prison for the interview which was published in "Radikal" newspaper in three installments, between 28 and 30 October 2010.

According to the journalist, despite the allegations of "praising violence", this was the first interview that actually condemned violence against civilians and included self-criticism by the PKK regarding the deaths of civilians.

Mavioglu emphasized that a number of trials have been launched because of "violations of secrecy" and similar reasons targeting news items and interviews based on easily accessible sources that dare to tackle topics such as the murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink or the Ergenekon case.

"The 'Radikal' newspaper is facing trials from almost everybody. Wherever we put our hands we are facing prosecution," Mavioglu said.

"We are requested not to write, not to talk and not to think. Even though our colleagues Ahmet Sik and Nedim Sener were arrested and despite efforts to put even more people behind bars, we will continue to write and talk," he claimed. "This is our profession. It is our work to write and report on the news. Just as a baker makes bread, journalists make news".

As a result of the complaint about the interview filed with the Istanbul Chief Prosecution, Special Authority Prosecutor Hakan Karaali demanded a five-year prison sentence for Mavioglu and the suspension of his right to vote and to benefit from public services. Mavioglu will be tried before the Istanbul 11th High Criminal Court.

Prosecutor Karaali deemed PKK leader Karayilan's statements as "propaganda for an illegal organization".

Human rights defender Hakan Tahmaz is facing prison terms of up to three years on the grounds of his interview with PKK executives on Qandil Mountain for "Birgun" newspaper. In the same case, "Birgun" newspaper official Ibrahim Cesmecioglu is being prosecuted for publishing the interview.

Both defendants stand accused of "publishing statements of PKK/KONGRAGEL" according to article 6/2 of the Anti-Terror Act (TMY). The reason for the prosecution is the interview entitled "Unilateral Ceasefire Amplifies the Problem", published on 9 August 2008. The next hearing is set for 24 March before the Istanbul 10th High Criminal Court.

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