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Court sentences journalist to six years in jail on propaganda charges

(BIANET/IFEX) - Journalist Ozan Kilinc, a former news vendor for the Kurdish "Azadiya Welat" newspaper, was sentenced to imprisonment of six years and nine months over news items published in the daily. As a defendant of the case he is being imprisoned in Diyarbakir, the predominantly Kurdish region of southeastern Turkey.

Kilinc was accused of "membership in an illegal organization and committing a crime on behalf of the organization" and "spreading propaganda for an illegal organization" in two separate files heard by the court. The charges were based on news items from twelve different issues of the newspaper published in June 2009.

The second hearing of the case at the Diyarbakir 5th High Criminal Court was held on 7 April.

Kilinc attended the hearing with his lawyer Servat Ozen, according to the Firat News Agency (ANF). The minutes of the previous hearing were read out again due to a change of the court board.

The prosecutor pleaded for a continuation of the journalist's detention. Kilinc requested that he be allowed to present his defense in Kurdish, his mother tongue, but the court denied the request. In the minutes it was recorded that Kilinc made a "statement in a language not understood by the court and assumed to be Kurdish."

Ozen refused to accept the final statement of the prosecution and reaffirmed his previous defense of Kilinc.

Ozen claimed that his client was a journalist who fulfilled his duty of informing the public.

"This is a legal right enshrined in the Constitution given to people and individuals who are carrying out press duties. We request the esteemed court to acquit the defendant from charges of 'propaganda for a terrorist organization' now and not by having the decree overturned by the Court of Appeals [later on]", Ozen said.

After a brief intermission, the court decided to acquit Kilinc from charges of "membership in an illegal organization and committing a crime on behalf of the organization" in one of the files heard in the scope of this case. For the other file, however, the court handed down a six-year and nine-month sentence without mitigation on charges of "spreading propaganda for an illegal organization".

The journalist was previously sentenced to imprisonment of 21 years in another trial heard before the Diyarbakir 5th High Criminal Court. In February 2011, the Court of Appeals 9th Chamber overturned the decision, saying that it was too high.

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