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Journalists set to appear in court after year-long detention

(BIANET/IFEX) - 13 January 2012 - Six employees of the "Yuruyus" ("Marching") magazine will appear before the Ankara 11th High Criminal Court for their first hearing after 13 months of pre-trial detention. They issued a call to everyone to come and support press freedom at the 20 January 2012 hearing. This is their first court appearance since the magazine offices were raided in December 2010.

Journalist Naciye Yavuz wrote on page two of the "Prisoners Gazette", "We, the employees of the 'Yuruyus' magazine, will go to court for the first time after 13 months in detention. We will be at court for the first time after having been detained in our cells for 13 months without any investigation, enquiry, or evidence of proof".

"We invite all friends and supporters of justice and rights to come to our hearing on 20 January at the Ankara 11th High Criminal Court".

"Yuruyus" employees Cihan Gun, Musa Kurt and Halit Gudenoglu also contributed to the "Prisoners Gazette". Journalists Kaan Unsal and Necla Can were also arrested after the crackdown on the magazine.

The six journalists were taken into police custody on 24 December 2010 during the raid on the magazine's offices. The office door was broken and about 2,000 books were seized during the raid.

The raid began at 4:00 am and was supported by helicopters. The office was demolished and the interior doors and furniture was broken.

The magazine's demand for compensation for damages caused by the raid was dismissed with the argument that there were "no grounds for legal action". According to the decision signed by Sisli (Istanbul) Public Prosecutor Sait Kunt, the office's door was broken "in order to prevent the destruction of material evidence".

Lawyer Evrim Deniz Karatana said that seized books, CDs and writings and photographs taken from computers and already used in the previous issue of the magazine had not been returned.

"The Special Authority Prosecution based its decision to search the office on the arrest of someone who had previously been searched in an investigation. However, that person was not the owner, editor-in-chief or an employee of the magazine and did not have any legal or de facto connections to the magazine," Karatana explained.

The lawyer said that even video footage taken at panel discussions was considered "evidence". The six journalists were allegedly beaten when they were taken into police custody but the ensuing criminal complaint did not move forward, Karatana noted.

The indictment was prepared by Prosecutor Kulibay Tastan and accepted by Judge Dundar Orsdemir. It alleges the six journalists were "members of an illegal organization" according to Article 5 of the Anti-Terror Law (TMK).

The journalists applied to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) due to the long period of pre-trial detention and the decision of confidentiality on the file that was only lifted after 10 months. The application is still pending. For 13 months, they did not know the details of the charges against them. They have been detained at the Sincan F Type Prison.

Lawyer Karatana considers the raid, his clients' pre-trial detention of 13 months, and the judiciary process as an "attack on press freedom and the right to information".

The magazine recently made headlines again when it was barred from publishing as a result of its 18 December 2011 issue. The Istanbul 14th High Criminal Court ordered a one-month suspension for allegedly publishing "propaganda for a terrorist organization" in the 299th issue of the magazine. The issue was seized.

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