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 Turkey: 166-year Prison Sentence for Kurdish Journalist to be Quashed?  

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Turkey: 166-year Prison Sentence for Kurdish Journalist to be Quashed?  21.2.2011  

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February 21, 2011

DIYARBAKIR, The Kurdish region of Turkey, — The Court of Appeals Public Chief Prosecution demanded to overturn the heavy prison sentence handed down to journalist Vedat Kurşun, former Editor-in-Chief of the Kurdish Azadiya Welat newspaper. The 5th High Criminal Court of Diyarbakir, a Kurdish-majority city in south-eastern Turkey, had sentenced Kurşun to imprisonment of 166.5 years on charges of "spreading propaganda for the PKK", the armed Kurdistan Workers Party recognized as a terrorist organization by the European Union, the USA and other countries.

The Public Chief Prosecutor of the Court of Appeals, Murat Kızılyar, criticized the verdict given by the Diyarbakir court and declared that Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Law (TMY) could not be applied 103 times to Kursun but that the journalist could be sentenced under the according provision only once.          

Vedat Kursun, former Editor-in-Chief of Azadiya Welat, the only Kurdish-language newspaper in Turkey.
In his plea, Prosecutor Kızılyar put forward, "The court decided for the execution of the decision as a single offence committed by the defendant in several consecutive issues of the newspaper he was editor-in-chief of. It is understood that the propaganda for the terrorist organization and its executives were published at different times".   

The Public Chief Prosecutor believes that it has not been considered that a chain offence was constituted according to Article 43/1 of the Turkish Criminal Law (No. 5237).

The Chief Prosecutor opposed the decision and informed the Court of Appeals 9th Chamber on 2 December 2010. "The propaganda for a terrorist organisation and its executives included in several consecutive issues of the newspaper the defendant worked for as the chief editor did not constitute the offence of committing a crime on behalf of a terrorist organization. Therefore, a conviction for this crime was decreed without regarding the aforementioned elements of crime as constituting a concrete incident".

The Court of Appeals 9th Chamber is going to announce its decision on the case of the journalist on 2 March.

On 13 May 2010, the Diyarbakir 5th High Criminal Court sentenced Kurşun to 166 years and six months in jail on charges of "membership of the PKK organization" and "spreading propaganda for an illegal organization".

In accordance with the final speech of the prosecutor, the court ruled for maximum prison terms of twelve years and eight months under allegations of "membership of an illegal organization" and for a 103-count prison sentence because of "propaganda".

Kurşun has got 32 trials pending against him. The journalist was facing a total prison sentence of up to 525 years due to the prosecutor's demand of a103-count sentence. The charges stem from certain terms used in the articles such as "Kurdistan", "guerrilla", "martyr", "leader of the Kurdish people" or "respectable Öcalan" besides the publishing of notes made during an interview with imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan,
www.ekurd.netcriticism of the conditions of detention in Imralı prison where Öcalan serves his sentence and announcements of PKK executives.

Journalist Kurşun was arrested on 30 January 2009 on Atatürk Airport in Istanbul because he had not given his statement in another trial. Kurşun was later on detained and taken to the Diyarbakır D Type Prison. He is one of the laureates of the 2010 Press Freedom Award imparted by the Turkish Journalists Association. Kursun is currently still in prison.

Since it was established in 1984, the PKK has been fighting the Turkish state, which still denies the constitutional existence of Kurds, to establish a Kurdish state in the south east of the country.

But now its aim is the creation an autonomous region and more cultural rights for ethnic Kurds who constitute the greatest minority in Turkey, numbering more than 20 million.

PKK's demands included releasing PKK detainees, lifting the ban on education in Kurdish, paving the way for an autonomous democrat Kurdish system within Turkey, reducing pressure on the detained PKK president, stopping military action against the Kurdish party and recomposing the Turkish constitution.

PKK demanded to stop military and political operations and to release Kurdish politicians who are unjustly detained. The organization also requested to enable imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan's active participation in the process.
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