Publisher’s trial opens in Istanbul

New York, April 3, 2002— The trial of Abdullah Keskin, a Turkish publisher charged with “separatist propaganda” in connection with a U.S. journalist’s book about the Kurdish issue, opened today in a State Security Court in Istanbul.

The charges against Keskin came after his publishing house, Avesta, printed a Turkish edition of After Such Knowledge, What Forgiveness?—My Encounters in Kurdistan, a book about the Kurds written by retired Washington Post correspondent Jonathan Randal. The state prosecutor’s indictment cited several passages from the book that contained references to “Kurdistan.”

The word “Kurdistan” means “land of the Kurds.” Turkish courts often cite such references to justify prosecuting journalists and intellectuals for allegedly supporting separatist ambitions among Turkey’s Kurdish minority population.

At the trial today, the three-judge panel refused a request from Randal to testify in Keskin’s defense and scheduled the next hearing for June 7.

“It is unacceptable that Turkey, which is seeking membership of the European Union, should ban books and put publishers on trial,” Randal said after today’s hearing.

Originally published in 1997, Randal’s book has since appeared in several countries and languages without incident. The Turkish edition, which Avesta published in 2001, was confiscated on January 15, 2002, by order of a State Security Court. Keskin was later charged under Article 8 of Turkey’s Anti-Terror Law. If convicted, he faces between one and three years in prison.

In support of Abdullah Keskin, CPJ and three other press freedom groups have endorsed an amicus brief submitted to the State Security Court by attorneys at the London office of the international law firm Covington & Burling. The brief argues that the prosecution of Keskin clearly violates Turkey’s obligations under international law and urges his acquittal.