Turkish court should overturn publisher’s convictions

New York, March 19, 2010A Turkish appellate court should overturn the unjust convictions of publisher and editor Haci Bogatekin, who faces several years in prison on various “insult” charges, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Bogatekin, owner of the biweekly Gerger Firat and editor of the news Web site Gergerfirat, was convicted March 2 on charges of “insulting” state prosecutors and “offending the authorities” and sentenced to five years in prison, according to local news reports. In a separate proceeding, Bogatekin was convicted March 5 on a related charge of obstructing justice and sentenced to 18 months in prison, according to the same reports.

In an interview with CPJ, Bogatekin said authorities targeted him after he published a January 2008 piece suggesting that Turkey faced a greater threat from a religious movement led by conservative author and cleric Fethullah Gülen than it did from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Bogatekin said he was summoned by Gerger state prosecutor Sadullah Ovacikli, who reprimanded him for insulting Gülen. Bogatekin was ordered to write an apology in the following issue of Gerger Firat; instead, the editor recounted his interrogation by prosecutors.

Bogatekin has appealed both verdicts and is free pending those proceedings. The appeal will be heard in the Adiyaman Appeals Court in southeast Turkey.

“This is a case that should never have been brought in a democratic country like Turkey,” said CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Mohamed Abdel Dayem.We urge the judiciary to overturn these convictions.”