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Turkish Supreme Court of Appeals ratifies life sentence against editor

(BIANET/IFEX) - 16 October 2012 - Turkey's Supreme Court of Appeals has ratified a life imprisonment sentence against Atilim newspaper editor-in-chief Hatice Duman. At the same time, the court overturned a sentence of nearly 19 years in prison for journalist Necati Abay, who stood trial in the same case.

The specially authorised 12th High Criminal Court in Istanbul had sentenced Abay, a former Atilim editor and the spokesman for the Solidarity with Arrested Journalists Platform (TGDP), on an accusation of being the manager of a terrorist organization. The verdict was based on a court "legal opinion", despite a lack of any evidence.

The Supreme Court of Appeals ruled that Abay should still be penalized for being a member, but not the manager, of a terrorist organization.

Lawyer Ozlem Gumustas told BIANET that verdicts were pending against the other individuals in the case, Ali Gul Alkaya, Ahmet Dogan, Gulluzar Erman and Hasan Ozcan.

In a written statement, Abay said the Supreme Court of Appeals' decision represents a massive blow to freedom of speech, adding that he was also among the plaintiffs involved in a suit against the Turkish state in the case of Sedat Selim Ay.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) issued a ruling against Turkey in relation to shortcomings in its investigation against Sedat Selim Ay, a police officer who was appointed as the Deputy Chief of the Istanbul Police and the Anti-Terror Department, despite allegations that he was involved in previous acts of torture.

"[They] are promoting torturers while punishing those who get them convicted. Through this decision, the state is showing me the way either toward an F-Type prison or to exile, wanting to silence me under all circumstances," Abay said.

Abay also added that the TGDP believes the appeals court's decision against the two journalists was politically motivated.

"[As the TGDP], we are calling on all individuals and institutions who advocate for freedom of the press, particularly professional journalists' institutions and human rights defenders, to [react] to this unfair decision," he said.


Abay first stood trial at the now-defunct Istanbul Fourth State Security Court (DGM). He faced a demand for life imprisonment on a charge of attempting to overturn the constitutional order by force of arms. He was released pending trial during the first hearing on 3 October 2003.

The specially authorized 12th High Criminal Court sentenced Duman, Alkaya, Dogan and Erman to life imprisonment, while Ozcan and Abay received sentences of 18 years and nine months behind bars in accordance with article 168/1 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), relating to allegations of being a manager of a terrorist organization.

The 39-year-old Erman, who is currently being held at the Gebze Women's Prison in Istanbul, was accused of robbing a bank and stealing a weapon. Alkaya's testimony was advanced in court as evidence of these allegations, but Alkaya told the court that he had testified under torture. The court, however, simply ignored his plea.

Journalist and BIANET writer Fusun Erdogan penned an article about Duman, with whom she spent time inside the Gebze Women's Prison:

"Hatice was born [in the eastern province of Malatya] on April 5, 1974. Her family had moved to [the southeastern province] of Antep for economic reasons. She finished elementary and middle school in Antep. She graduated from Trakya University's Vocational School of Higher Education in 1996 and began working as a reporter for Atilim the same year. In 1997 she started working at the editor-in-chief's desk.

"She explains her situation as follows: 'The state employed all its violent and repressive means to prevent us from perceiving and writing the truth. All the editions we published were confiscated, and we were prevented from following the news. Our cameras and recorders were broken. They seized our computers. They filed lawsuits based on the confiscated issues of our [newspaper. The accused individuals] received sentences of up to hundreds of years as a result of these trials.'

"(. . .) Their homes were raided on 9 April 2003 at around 16:00. They depicted Hatice as the other female [culprit] they were searching for in two robberies, while they also portrayed Erman as a partner in crime through testimony the police wrote down and which her then husband had signed under torture!"

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