Click here to read Nadire Mater's personal statement
Last week, Nadire Mater, a reporter with Inter Press Service (IPS), learned that
she had been formally charged with "insulting" the Turkish military-a crime under
Article 159 of the Turkish Penal Code. If convicted, she faces between one and
six years in prison.
The charge stems from the publication of her recent book Mehmed's Book:
Soldiers Who have Fought in the Southeast Speak Out,which was banned by
Turkish authorities in June. The book consists of interviews with 42 retired
Turkish soldiers who had fought in the civil conflict in southeastern Turkey.
In her indictment, dated August 9, 1999, state prosecutors cited some 40 quotes
from former Turkish conscripts as the basis for the charge.
Mater's first court hearing is scheduled to take place on September 29, one day
after U.S. President Bill Clinton's expected meeting with Turkish Prime Minister
Bulent Ecevit in Washington.
An Istanbul court banned distribution of Mehmed's Book on June 23,
claiming that it had insulted the military. Police confiscated copies from the
book's Istanbul-based publisher, Metis Publishers. Prior to the ban, four
editions of the book had been printed and around 9,000 copies sold.
Mater's recent indictment underscores the shortcomings of the amnesty law
approved by Turkey's parliament on August 18. The law, signed by President
Suleiman Demirel on September 2, suspends court cases or jail terms against
individuals charged or convicted of "crimes" committed through the media for a
period of three years. A number of journalists have already been freed under the
amnesty, and dozens of court cases are expected to be quashed temporarily.
But journalists such as Mater, who have committed "crimes" since the April 23
cutoff date, do not qualify for the amnesty. Moreover, those who do qualify still
face a three year probationary period, meaning that if they commit a similar
"offense" within the three-year period, they will be required to serve their
previous sentence in addition to any new sentence confirmed by the courts.
As long as laws used to prosecute journalists for their published work remain on
the books in Turkey, reporters and editors will remain under threat of
prosecution and possibly imprisonment.