Sunday, May 23, 2010

166 1/2 Years in Prison for Kurdish Journalist

From Bianet:

Journalist Vedat Kurşun, former editorial manager of the Kurdish Azadiya Welat newspaper, was charged with "membership of the PKK organization" and "spreading propaganda for an illegal organization" by the 5th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakır (south-eastern Turkey). Kurşun received a prison sentence of 166 years and six months. The separatist PKK organization is listed as a terrorist organization in many countries.

With this decision, the court followed the demands expressed in the final submission of the prosecutor. In the hearing on 13 May, the court decreed to sentence Kurşun to 12 years and eight months, the upper limit for charges of "membership of an organization". He furthermore received a 103 counts' sentence according to article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Law (TMY) on propaganda for an illegal organization.

In an announcement made by the Azadiya Welat daily, the decision was described as "illegal" and "politically" motivated. The newspaper urged rights institutions to react to the decision.
Reporters without Boarders (RSF), the Turkish Contemporary Journalists' Association (ÇGD), the Press Institute Association and the Journalists Union of Turkey (TGS) have all condemned the decision, which again, raises serious questins about freedoms of expression and thre press in relation to the Kurdish question. Continued sentences against journalists perceived to be pro-Kurdish natioanlist within the context of continued operations against alleged members of the Democratic Confederation of Kurdistan have seriously undermined the government's democratization efforts in the region. My recent visits to the region have revealed that there is little to no hope left for the initiative, even amidst moderates who at first praised the government's attempt as a positive first step toward resolving the conflict.

Azadiya Welat's editorial manager, Mehdi Tanrikulu, who is also facing charges in relation to his work for the paper, was released this week after one and a half months in detention after insisiting that he present his defense in Kurdish. He is facing the same charges as Kursun., as is Kurdish publisher Bedri Adanir. Adanir's charges come in part due to his publication of speeches made by Adullah Ocalan during the imprisoned former PKK leader's defense at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Adanir had sought the approval of local authorities in Bursa before publishing the book, though the Interior Ministry had forbidden publication. Adanir's defense is scheduled for July 8.

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