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Three journalists released pending trial, 11 others still imprisoned

(BIANET/IFEX) - 21 January 2012 - Eleven defendants, employees of "Yuruyus" ("Marching") magazine and the Ozan Publishing Company, had their first court hearing on 10 January after 13 months in pre-trial detention. Three defendants - Gulsum Yildiz, Necla Can and Mehmet Ali Ugurlu - were released pending trial. The court decided to keep the remaining eight defendants in detention. The detained defendants are: Abdullah Ozgun, Hatice Ruken Kilic, Remzi Ucucu, Halit Gudenoglu, Naciye Yavuz, Kaan Unsal, Musa Kurt and Cihan Gun.

Ahmet Abakay, the president of the Contemporary Lawyers Association, attended the hearing as an observer.

Prior to the hearing, members of the Office Workers Union (BES) protested the trial. BES board member Gulsun Yildiz is also on trial. BES President Osman Bicer issued a press release in which he denounced the trial. "The AKP [Justice and Development Party] continues to terrorize groups that are fighting injustices and lawlessness," Bicer criticized.

"Yuruyus" employees have been charged with publishing "propaganda for a terrorist organization" and "membership in a terrorist organization". Evidence presented at the indictment includes legal books such as "Disassociated journalists in the monopolized media" and "Rights of journalists and professional issues", as well as a news item and photographs related to the "Return to Life" operation published in the 246th issue of "Yuruyus" magazine.

Detained defendant Cihan Gun was doing the page setting at Ozan Publishing. He said that his fingerprints found on the book "Ravens and Carrions" were considered as evidence of crime. "These are efforts to silence the press. There are currently more than a hundred journalists in prison. When Engin Ceber was being tortured in police custody, I was beaten in the next room. Distributing 'Yuruyus' magazine is not a crime. It is a democratic right. I have been detained for 13 months and I request my release," Gun said.

"Yuruyus" employee Halit Gudenoglu said that his fingerprints were found on books at Ozan Publishing. "Yes, I might have touched these books," said Gudenoglu. "Is that a crime? This is an attack on press freedom. This is the silencing of dissident voices."

Naciye Yavuz said that freedom of thought is restricted in Turkey. "I was arrested because of my thoughts. My attendance at the demonstrations of 8 March and 1 May, and the funeral of Guler Zere, were presented as offences during my indictment. But this must not be a crime. Many people attend these demonstrations," Yavuz said. He added, "It is said that I was the spokesperson at an event on 30 October 2005 but I was in prison on that date."

In her defence, Necla Can, the owner of Ozan Publishing, said, "You should have seen the state of my workplace after the raid. They even tore down walls. So I complained to the police. However, when I was taken into custody five months later, they said, 'You complained about us'." She pointed to the fact that the people who carried out the torture, together with Kenan Evren and Tahsin Sahinkaya at that time, are being tried under the same allegations. Can continued, "Hrant Dink was a journalist like us. The bullet that hit him hit all of our necks. For years, whoever stood up against the state was either killed or tortured."

The offices of "Yuruyus" magazine in Sisli (Istanbul), were raided at 4:00 a.m. on the morning of 24 December 2010. "Yuruyus" is a weekly publication. Ozan Publishing was also targeted during the raid because the company was preparing to print the magazine. A total of 15 employees were taken into custody, 11 of whom were arrested and imprisoned at the Sincan F Type Prison.

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