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Mass trial in Turkey, journalists get two more months in jail

(RSF/IFEX) - Thirty-six journalists and media workers whose trial began in central Istanbul on 10 September will remain in provisional detention for at least two more months after the judge abruptly ended the first series of hearings yesterday, rejecting defence petitions and transferring future hearings to Silivri, in Istanbul province.

"Two more months in prison!" Reporters Without Borders protested. "When the next hearing is held on 12 November, 36 of the 44 defendants will have spent nearly a year in provisional detention. Despite the 5 July reform law, hardly any more grounds are being given for these decisions than before. Furthermore, by deciding to henceforth hold this mass political trial 100 km from Istanbul, the court is trying to prevent civil society from observing it, and this is unacceptable."

The atmosphere was tense during the first three days of the trial, in which the defendants are accused of forming a "media committee" that took its orders from an outlawed Kurdish separatist organization. After clapping and protesting noisily during the 11 September hearing, observers were barred from the court yesterday.

The presiding judge ended the first series of hearings two days earlier than planned, before the indictment could be read out in court. On the prosecution's recommendation, the court rejected all of the defence lawyers' requests - conditional release, permission to dispute the validity of the charges, and permission for the defendants to use their mother tongue, Kurdish, during the trial.

When the requests were rejected, the defendants placed black bandages over their mouths and turned their backs on the jury in protest.

"We feel like bit players in this hearing," defence lawyer Sinan Zincir told the court. "We do not accept the way this court is treating us, nor do we accept the presence of members of the security forces in the law court."

Fellow defence lawyer Ercan Kanar called on the court to end the public's exclusion and to treat the defence fairly. He also announced his intention to ask the High Judiciary Council (HSYK) to dismiss the jury.

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