Over the past decade, hundreds of reporters and editors have been indicted, convicted, or imprisoned for news coverage deemed undesirable by the Turkish state. At the end of 1998, 27 Turkish journalists were in jail because of their work–more than any other country in the world for the fifth year running. During a two-week research trip to Turkey in July 1999, CPJ investigated many new cases of press freedom violations, 27 of which are documented below. We found that the Turkish government is still using vaguely-worded laws to criminalize reporting on sensitive political topics such as the Kurdish issue and the role of Islam in politics
These findings are particularly dismaying given that just two years ago the government of Turkey pledged to end the criminalization of journalism in Turkey. In July 1997, CPJ and other local and international press freedom organizations held a series of high-level meetings with Turkish government officials in Ankara. During these meetings, the government of then-Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz promised unequivocally to take steps to reform the laws used to prosecute journalists.
On July 13, 1997, Yilmaz told the international delegation that the jailing of journalists and other restrictions on press freedom “were explained away in the past by the fight against terrorism. That was unacceptable then, and it is unacceptable now.” The Prime Minister added that journalists and other intellectuals should no longer be prosecuted based on their “thoughts and opinions.” In a separate meeting, then-deputy Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit told CPJ “I consider freedom of expression as a vital component of democracy.” Ecevit added, “I am personally disturbed by the number of journalists in jail in Turkey.” Today, Ecevit is the prime minister and Yilmaz a junior partner in the coalition government.
Yet the prosecutions continue:
On May 18, 1999, Oral Çalislar, a veteran reporter with the mainstream daily Cumhuriyet,stood before an Istanbul State Security Court to hear the verdict in a case originally filed against him in 1993. After a 90-minute hearing, the panel of one military and two civilian judges found him guilty of disseminating “separatist propaganda” under Article 8 of Turkey’s infamous Anti-Terror Law. Çalislar’s offense was a 1993 book in which he reprinted interviews with Abdullah Öcalan, leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The interviews had originally been published earlier that year, without incident, in Cumhuriyet.He received a 13-month prison sentence.
Just two weeks later, on June 4, 1999, Turkish authorities arrested Hasan Deniz, an editor with the Kurdish nationalist daily Özgür Bakis.An Istanbul State Security Court then charged Deniz under Article 169 of the Turkish Penal Code (aiding an illegal terrorist organization). The basis for the charge was a news article that had appeared in the newspaper a few days earlier, reporting that the PKK supported Öcalan’s call for an end to the brutal 15-year conflict between the Turkish army and Kurdish rebels in Southeast Turkey.
Six days after Deniz was arrested and charged, a criminal court in Istanbul charged Andrew Finkel, a Turkey-based correspondent for Timemagazine and several other Western publications, with insulting the Turkish military–an offence that carries a six-month prison term. The charge against Finkel, an American citizen, stemmed from an article he had written for a mass-circulation Turkish daily describing his recent visit to a garrison town in the Southeast. Quoting military officials, Finkel wrote that the soldiers were apparently trying to win the “hearts and minds” of local inhabitants. They were “a long way from being an army of occupation” he added. Even so, prosecutors concluded that Finkel had insulted the military.
The Finkel and Çalislar cases demonstrate that foreign correspondents and prominent, mainstream Turkish reporters are not immune to state prosecution. But the vast majority of accused journalists work for Turkey’s pro-Kurdish, Islamist, and leftist press. For much of the 1990s, leftist and pro-Kurdish newspapers suffered the brunt of state legal harassment in response to their efforts to provide alternative news and commentary about the conflict in the Southeast. More recently, Islamist newspapers have come under judicial attack, following the resignation of Islamist Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan in June 1997 under pressure from the military and the subsequent state campaign to combat political Islam.
Following CPJ’s 1997 mission to Turkey, the Yilmaz government made good on its promise to push a limited amnesty bill through parliament that led to the release of at least eight jailed editors. The bill also quashed dozens, possibly hundreds of cases pending in court. But Turkey has not yet kept its promise to reform legislation used to prosecute journalists. A draft bill calling for the amendment of certain articles of the Penal Code and the Anti-Terror Law was submitted to parliament, but never came up for a vote.
But even the proposed legislative changes fell well short of comprehensive reform. For the most part, proposed amendments to Articles 312 and 159 (insulting state institutions) of the Penal Code, along with Article 8 of the Anti-Terror Law (disseminating separatist propaganda) leave the essence of the original statute intact while modestly reducing prison sentences and fines.
Undoubtedly, comprehensive reform of Turkish law will be a complicated and lengthy task. But since 1997, the government has done little to promote press freedom in Turkey. This report documents 27 cases of journalists who have been indicted, convicted, or imprisoned as a direct result of their work. In some cases, we have documented several cases filed against the same journalist. This is very common; the veteran columnist Abderrahman Dilipak, for example, estimates that dozens of cases have been brought against him over the years.
CPJ’s findings are based on detailed interviews with local reporters, editors, and lawyers that were conducted in Istanbul between July 9 and July 20, 1999. Our list of cases is not exhaustive. Rather, it is intended as a sample of the various discourses that can land a journalist in court, and possibly prison. It is difficult, if not impossible, to quantify the exact number of court cases pending against journalists in Turkey today, given the sheer volume of cases and the wide range of existing and defunct publications that they cover. In some instances, cases can drag on for years as they work their way through a maze of appeals and retrials, making an accounting of figures ever more challenging.
The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on the Turkish government to adopt the following recommendations aimed at bringing Turkey’s practices into accordance with international standards for a free press:
- Initiate meaningful legislative reforms that will guarantee the rights of journalists to report news and opinion without reprisal.
- As a gesture of good will, initiate immediate legislative efforts aimed at securing the release of journalists imprisoned on the basis of their journalistic work. Also cancel court prosecutions currently pending against journalists in response to their journalistic work.
II. CASES OF JOURNALISTS CONVICTED FOR PUBLISHING NEWS AND OPINION
May 18, 1999
Oral Çalislar, CumhuriyetLEGAL ACTION
The Istanbul State Security Court convicted Çalislar, a columnist for the mainstream daily Cumhuriyet,of violating Article 8 of the Anti-Terror Law (disseminating separatist propaganda) and sentenced him to 13 months in prison. The charge against Çalislar stemmed from a book that he published in 1993, titled The Kurdish Problem with Öcalan and Burkay.The book contained interviews with Kemal Burkay, head of the Kurdistan Socialist Party, and Abdullah Öcalan, leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The interviews had originally appeared in Cumhuriyetin June and July 1993, without incident.
After the book’s release, Çalislar was charged under Article 8. He was convicted in 1995, sentenced to two years in prison, and fined 250 million TL ($584 at the time). However, the Turkish parliament approved amendments to Article 8 while his case was under appeal. As a result, the conviction was nullified.
In 1996, the State Security Court arraigned Çalislar on charges of violating Article 6 of the Anti-Terror Law (publishing the statements of an illegal/terrorist organization), again on the basis of his book. He was convicted and fined 5 million TL ($60). But on March 5, 1998, the Court of Appeals quashed the 1996 ruling, stating that Çalislar’s book instead constituted “separatist propaganda.” The Court ordered a retrial under Article 8; he was convicted on May 18, 1999.
Çalislar is awaiting the outcome of his appeal at the Court of Appeals.
April 7, 1999
Aydin Koral, SelamLEGAL ACTION
An Istanbul State Security Court convicted Koral, editor of the Islamist weekly Selam,of violating Articles 6 (publishing the statements of an illegal/ terrorist organization) and 7 (publishing the propaganda of an illegal/ terrorist organization) of the Anti-Terror Law, along with Article 312 of the Penal Code (inciting racial/religious hatred). He was sentenced to six months in prison and fined 98,435,000 TL ($228).
Koral was charged because of two items published in the October 22, 1997 edition of Selam.The first was an interview with Hassan Nasrullah, secretary general of the Lebanese Shiite political movement Hezbollah. In the interview, Nasrullah strongly condemned joint military exercises between Israel and Turkey, arguing that the initiative was a threat to regional stability and would “isolate Turkey in the Islamic world.”
The second item, a column published in the same edition of the paper, also criticized military cooperation between Turkey and Israel.
Koral’s sentence is under appeal at the Court of Appeals.
March 27, 1999
Haluk Gerger, Özgür GündemLEGAL ACTION
The Court of Appeals approved a 13-month prison sentence against Gerger, a political essayist and former contributor to the now-defunct pro-Kurdish daily Özgür Gündem,for violating Article 312 of the Penal Code (inciting racial/religious hatred).
The charge stemmed from an article that he wrote for the December 20, 1993 edition of Özgür Gündem,titled “Who Lost This War?” In the article, Gerger criticized the government’s ongoing battle against Kurdish insurgents in the Southeast. An arrest warrant was issued for Gerger in May 1999, but he was out of the country at the time and remains so as of this writing.
Gerger had previously been imprisoned on January 26, 1998, after the Court of Appeals ratified a one-year prison sentence against him. He was convicted of violating Article 7 of the Anti-Terror Law (propaganda for an illegal/terrorist organization) in connection with a December 1993 article that he wrote for Özgür Gündem,urging the government to negotiate with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). He was released on September 18, 1998.
Additional State Security Court cases are pending against Gerger for articles that he published in other Turkish newspapers.
January 26, 1999
Mehmet Salih Taskesen, Azadiya WelatLEGAL ACTION
An Istanbul State Security Court convicted Taskesen, managing editor of the Kurdish language weekly Azadiya Welat,under Article 7 of the Anti-Terror Law (propaganda for an illegal/terrorist organization). He was sentenced to one year in prison and a fine of 3,050,000,000 TL ($7,082).
The case against Taskesen came in response to a front-page Reuters news agency photo of pro-Kurdish demonstrators in Germany that appeared in the June 6-12 edition of Azadiya Welat.The demonstrators were carrying a banner on which was inscribed the Kurdish slogan “Long Live Apo,” a reference to recently convicted Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) chief Abdullah Öcalan.
The case is currently before Turkey’s Court of Appeals awaiting final approval.
An anonymous source at Azadiya Welattold CPJ that at least six other cases are pending against the newspaper in the State Security Court for published articles.
December 25, 1998
Ahmet Ergin, EmekLEGAL ACTION
An Istanbul State Security Court convicted Ergin, managing editor of the now-defunct leftist daily Emek,under Article 312 of the Turkish Penal Code (inciting racial/religious hatred). He was sentenced to two years in prison.
Ergin was convicted on the basis of two articles that appeared in Emekon June 4, 1998. The first, titled “Boarding Schools of Assimilation are on the Increase,” reported that the State of Emergency Rule Governor for the Southeast had requested that the Ministry of Education open eight new boarding schools in the region. The article asserted that Turkish authorities were using these schools to assimilate Kurdish youth into mainstream Turkish society, in a effort to check Kurdish nationalism in the region. The second article, titled “We Will Win the Case,” criticized efforts by the mainstream daily Milliyetto organize a media tour of the Southeast in order to sample public opinion before Turkey’s legislative elections. It also criticized the government’s prevailing social and economic policies in the Southeast and urged it to adopt meaningful reforms in the region.
Ergin’s sentence was recently approved by the Court of Appeals. A warrant for his arrest has already been issued.
December 17, 1998
Ahmet Ergin, EmekLEGAL ACTION
A State Security Court in Istanbul convicted Ergin, managing editor of the now-defunct leftist daily Emek,of violating Article 312 of the Penal Code (inciting racial/religious hatred). He was sentenced to 20 months in prison and a fine of 2,533,333 TL (at the time about $10).
The conviction was based on an article titled “The Republic Formed on the Basis of Denial” that ran in the July 23, 1998 edition of Emek.The piece described a Turkish state radio contest that had called on listeners to submit songs commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Turkish Republic. Apropos the winning song, “Freedom is shining on our land like the sun,” the writer called on, “What does this mean for the Kurds?” He added that Kurds in Turkey have been “denied their existence since the formation of the Republic,” and concluded by asking, “So for the Kurd, how can the republic be a place of freedom that shines like the sun?”
The Court of Appeals recently approved the sentence. A warrant for Ergin’s arrest is expected imminently.
December 8, 1998
Cevdet Kiliçlar, SelamLEGAL ACTION
Kiliçlar, a reporter for the Islamist weekly Selam,was convicted by a State Security Court of violating Article 159 of the Turkish Penal Code (insulting state institutions, in this case the judiciary). He was sentenced to 10 months in prison.
The charge against Kiliçlar stemmed from an article he wrote for the November 4-10, 1998 edition of Selam, titled “Human Views of the DGM” [State Security Courts]. The article strongly criticized the Courts, describing them as “extraordinary” and “illegal” and declaring that their use in Turkey constituted a “shame to humanity.”
Kiliçlar’s conviction awaits review at the Court of Appeals.
March 5, 1998
Aydin Koral, SelamLEGAL ACTION
An Istanbul State Security Court convicted Koral, editor of the Islamist weekly newspaper Selam,of violating Article 312 of the Penal Code (inciting religious hatred). He was sentenced to 20 months in prison.
Koral was tried in connection with a column he wrote for the May 16, 1997 edition of the newspaper titled “Secularist-Militarist Oligarchy and Zionist Occupier of Jerusalem.” The column criticized the Turkish military and its relations with the State of Israel. Koral wrote: “Now in Turkey the foreign enemy has been replaced by the internal enemy, which has been declared as Islam and Sharia.”
On May 28, the Court of Appeals upheld Koral’s conviction and sentence. He was scheduled to begin serving his sentence on November 26, 1998, but his whereabouts are unknown. It is believed that he may have fled the country or gone into hiding.
December 25, 1997
Murat Kul, Milliyet LEGAL ACTION
Kul, a broadcast journalist who formerly worked for the mainstream daily Milliyet,was convicted by a State Security Court of violating Article 136 of the Turkish Penal Code (revealing state secrets). He was sentenced to four years and two months in prison.
The charge stemmed from an article titled “Secret NSC Report” that Kul wrote for the December 18, 1996 edition of Milliyet.In the article, Kul revealed the contents of a secret National Security Council document on state policy in the Southeast. The NSC document apparently contained a plan to coordinate the activities of Turkish military and security forces in order to combat Kurdish rebels. Kul also reported that the NSC had agreed on a strategy of increasing the number of non-resident civil servants in the Southeast, in order to prevent Kurdish nationalists from infiltrating the local administration.
On July 7, 1999 the Court of Appeals began reviewing Kul’s case. The state prosecutor urged that he be acquitted, arguing that the article did not constitute a crime. The court is expected to render its decision on October 6, 1999.
May 17, 1996
Dogan Güzel, Özgür ÜlkeLEGAL ACTION
An Istanbul criminal court convicted Güzel, a cartoonist with the Kurdish nationalist daily Özgür Ülke,under Article 160 of the Turkish Penal Code (insulting the Turkish Republic). He was sentenced to 10 months in prison.
The basis of the conviction was a Güzel cartoon that ran in the December 11, 1994 edition of Özgür Ülke.The cartoon depicts a group of men in a tea house complaining that some customers are being served high quality smuggled tea while others drink “inferior Turkish Republic tea.” One daring patron even complains that the police are being served higher quality tea than the others.
The case awaits review by the Court of Appeals.
Güzel is already serving a 40-month sentence for other cartoons that were published in the now-defunct daily Özgür Gündemin 1993. He was jailed on July 31, 1998, following the Court of Appeals’s ratification of four separate convictions under Article 159 of the Penal Code (insulting state institutions).
III. JOURNALISTS CHARGED FOR THE PUBLICATION OF NEWS AND OPINION
June 24, 1999
Hasan Deniz, Özgür BakisLEGAL ACTION
State Security Court prosecutors charged Deniz, managing editor of the pro-Kurdish daily Özgür Bakis,under Article 8 of the Anti-Terror Law (disseminating separatist propaganda). The charge stemmed from an article titled “The Gray Wolves Trap” that appeared in the June 5, 1999 edition of Özgür Bakis.Written by university professor Nail Satilgan, the article called on Turkish leftists to unite in the cause of Kurdish self-determination.
During the first hearing of the case, prosecutors requested that Özgür Bakisbe banned. If convicted, Deniz himself faces up to one year in prison and heavy fines.
Several other court cases are pending against the newspaper.
June 18, 1999
Duygu Senem, Atilim LEGAL ACTION
Senem, managing editor for the far-left weekly Atilim,was charged in the State Security Court with violating Article 7 (disseminating propaganda for an illegal/terrorist organization) and Article 8 (disseminating separatist propaganda) of the Anti-Terror Law, along with Article 169 of the Penal Code (aiding an illegal terrorist organization).
The charges stemmed from two pieces published in the June 11, 1999 edition of Atilim.The first piece, an editorial titled “Long Live the Revolution,” attacked so-called US imperialism, along with the US government’s role in helping the Turkish government capture Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) chief Abdullah Öcalan in February 1999. The editorial also quoted statements made by Öcalan and the PKK’s executive committee during the trial. The second piece, an article titled “Assimilation and Genocide,” asserted that the Turkish state had ignored the existence of minorities such as the Kurds, through what it called a policy of “assimilation.”
If convicted, Senem faces several years in prison and heavy fines. In a separate indictment, Senem was charged on June 8, 1999 with violating Article 6 (publishing statements of an illegal terrorist organization) and Article 8 (disseminating separatist propaganda) of the Anti-Terror Law, along with Article 169 of the Penal Code (aiding an illegal/terrorist organization).The charges came in response to nine pieces that ran in the May 28, 1999 edition of Atilim.
June 10, 1999
Andrew Finkel, Time, The Timesof London, The Economist, SabahLEGAL ACTION
An Istanbul Criminal Court summoned Finkel, a veteran free-lance reporter who writes on Turkey forTime, The Timesof London, The Economist,and had also contributed to the mass-circulation Turkish daily Sabah,to answer charges that he had insulted the Turkish military. Finkel had actually been charged on September 3, 1998 under Article 159 of the Penal Code, but Sabahinformed him of the case just two days before his scheduled court appearance.
The charge against Finkel, a U.S. national, was based on a February 1998 article that he wrote for Sabahtitled “Surnak 1998.” The piece described a recent media tour organized by the military to the southeastern garrison town of Surnak.
In the article, Finkel compared modern-day Surnak with his impressions of the town from an earlier visit some years ago. Quoting military officials, he wrote that the Turkish military was apparently trying to win the “hearts and minds” of local inhabitants, adding, “this is a long way from being an army of occupation.” Even so, prosecutors concluded that Finkel had insulted the military.
Finkel faces up to six years in prison if convicted of the charge. His next court hearing is scheduled for November 16, 1999.
June 4, 1999
Hasan Deniz, Özgür BakisIMPRISONED, LEGAL ACTION
State prosecutors at the Istanbul State Security Court charged Deniz, editor of the pro-Kurdish dailyÖzgür Bakis,with violating Article 169 of the Penal Code (aiding an illegal/terrorist organization) and ordered his immediate arrest. The charge resulted from a June 3, 1999 article in Özgür Bakis,titled “PKK Gives Support To Öcalan.” The article quoted a statement by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) supporting a call by Abdullah Öcalan–the PKK leader who was recently found guilty of treason and sentenced to death–for a peaceful and democratic settlement of political strife between Kurdish rebels and the Turkish government. The story had been widely covered by the local and international press.
The first session of Deniz’s trial is slated for August 11, 1999. He is currently being held in Istanbul’s Umraniye Prison.
April 16, 1999
Ekrem Kiziltas, Milli Gazete LEGAL ACTION
State Security Court prosecutors charged Kiziltas, managing editor of the Islamist daily Milli Gazete,under Article 312 of the Penal Code (inciting racial/religious hatred). The charge resulted from Milli Gazete’sApril 14, 1999 publication of a column by Ihsan Sureyya Sirma. Titled “A Letter that May Serve as a Lesson to All,” the column quoted from a letter written by a Turkish woman university student and addressed to the Islamic University in Holland. The student inquired about educational opportunities in Holland, explaining that she faced “condemnation” at her Turkish university because she wore a headscarf.
Sirna commented: “This letter came from a country whose population is 99 percent Muslim…Turkey is a Muslim country, but Muslims are not allowed to live in an Islamic way in this country. And here is an individual from a Muslim country who wants to live in a Christian country so that she can practice her religion.”
If convicted, Kiziltas faces between one and three years in prison.
April 8, 1999
Mustafa Okur, Milli GazeteLEGAL ACTION
Ekrem Kiziltas, Milli GazeteLEGAL ACTION
An Istanbul criminal court charged Kiziltas, managing editor of the Islamist daily Milli Gazete,and Okur, a columnist for the same newspaper, under Article 159 of the Penal Code (insulting state institutions and the military). The charge was based on a column that Okur published in the November 14, 1998 edition of Milli Gazete, titled “Secularism and Reaction.” Okur castigated the Turkish military’s role in governing the country. He further claimed that 70 years of Turkish secularism had not only failed to result in national progress, but had in fact pushed the country backward.
If convicted, both men face up to six years in prison.
March 8, 1999
Tuncay Seyman, Evrensel LEGAL ACTION
An Istanbul State Security Court charged Seyman, managing editor of the leftist daily Evrensel,under Article 8 of the Anti-Terror Law (disseminating separatist propaganda) in connection with its re-publication of an article that originally ran in The Timesof London.
The article, written by British journalist Simon Jenkins and titled “Kurdish Instincts,” was reprinted in Evrensel on February 25, 1999. Jenkins strongly criticized the British government for what he termed foreign policy double standards with regard to NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia. “Bomb Turkey now. Let’s not wait,” Jenkins wrote with obvious sarcasm. “Flatten Ankara, Tomahawk the Bosphorus, take out Izmir. If we can bomb Serbia for the Kosovans and bomb President Saddam Hussein for the Iraqi Kurds, we can surely bomb Turkey for their mountain brothers [i.e. the Kurds]. Why wait until more people die or until Robin Cook’s patience is exhausted’? New Labor bombs sooner. It bombs for peace. Thatcher bombed but Blair bombs bigger. What hypocrites we are.”
In its indictment, the prosecution stated that “on the second page of Evrenselan article written by Simon Jenkins titled ‘Kurdish Instincts’ included the crime of separatist propaganda against the Turkish state.” If convicted, Seyman faces up to three years in prison in addition to fines.
February 14, 1999
Abdurrahman Dilipak, Cuma, Akit LEGAL ACTION
State prosecutors charged Dilipak, a veteran columnist with the Islamist daily Akit,under Article 266 of the Penal Code. The charge came in response to an article that Dilipak wrote for the Islamist weekly Cuma,titled “Western Working Group.” The article criticized alleged activities of the so-called Western Working Group, a shadowy group within the military that reportedly monitors political Islam in Turkey.
“Finally they are out in the open,” Dilipak declared. “The dark relations between media, mafias, investors, politicians, bureaucrats and murderers are all apparent now. They have drowned themselves in a well, and are attacking in fear and panic . . . He added: “Don’t forget, behind the Western Working Group there is NATO, the United States of America, Western Europe, the CIA, and Mossad. Now do you understand what the Western Working Group is all about?”
If convicted of the charge, Dilipak faces several years in prison. Dilipak has faced numerous prosecutions over the years in response to criticisms of the Turkish government and military authorities that he has voiced in newspaper columns, speeches, and TV interviews. He estimates that dozens of cases have been brought against him, many of which are currently pending in criminal and State Security Courts.
January 5, 1999
Mehmet Nazif Deveci, Degisim LEGAL ACTION
An Istanbul State Security Court charged Deveci, managing editor of the monthly Islamist magazine Degisim,under Article 312 of the Turkish Penal Code (inciting racial/religious hatred) in response to an article that ran in the magazine’s October 1998 issue.
Titled “The Unofficial History of the Republic: A 75-Year Balance Sheet,” the piece took a relatively jaundiced view of Turkey at its 75th anniversary. It described what it called state efforts to crush leftist and Kurdish political opposition over the years, and opined that the anniversary was no cause for celebration given the “lack of democracy” in Turkey.
If convicted of the charge, Deveci faces between two to six years in prison.
December 7, 1998
Ali Teker, Yeni Safak LEGAL ACTION
A State Security Court in Istanbul charged Teker, managing editor of the pro-Islamist dailyYeni Safak,under Article 7 (propaganda for an illegal/terrorist organization) and Article 8 (separatist propaganda) of the Anti-Terror Law.
The case arose over an interview with Yasar Kaya, head of the Kurdish parliament-in-exile, that ran in the December 1, 1998 edition of Yeni Safak. In the interview, published under the headline “Confessions of the Federated ‘State,’ ” Kaya discussed the future of the Kurdish national movement and called for the formation of a Kurdish state in parts of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. The newspaper was confiscated by Turkish authorities.
Teker faces imprisonment and heavy fines if convicted of the charge.
December 2, 1998
Huseyin Küçükkelepçe, Selam LEGAL ACTION
Küçükkelepçe, managing editor of the Islamist weekly Selam,was charged by State Security Court prosecutors under Article 7 (propaganda for an illegal/terrorist organization) and Article 8 (separatist propaganda) of the Anti-Terror Law.
The charge stemmed from Selam’spublication of an interview with Yasar Kaya, head of the Kurdish parliament-in-exile. The interview, which was conducted in Italy and published in the newspaper’s November 22-28 edition, ran under the headline “Turkey Plays a Big Role in Process of Politicization.” The interview was conducted while PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan was seeking refuge in Italy before his capture in February 1999.
In the interview Kaya stated: “Since its formation the Turkish Republic has shut all democratic doors to the Kurds. So the Kurds have had to express themselves with arms. The Kurds want to express their democratic and national longings and they want to have their own identity. They have resorted to armed struggle because they have no other choice.”
If convicted, Küçükkelepçe faces up to six years in prison.
September 28, 1998
Abdurrahman Dilipak, Akit LEGAL ACTION
Prosecutors charged Dilipak, a veteran columnist with the Islamist daily Akit,under Article 159 of the Turkish Penal Code (insulting state institutions and the military).
The charge followed his publication in Akit’sJune 15, 1998 edition of a column titled “Anatolia is Awakening,” which criticized the military’s influence over the government in determining state policy. He wrote: “Turkey is under a new threat of a military coup. The people planning the coup are attacking in panic. . .” He went on to argue that the fears of the military were justified because they were incapable of fighting corruption, mafias, and gangs.
If convicted, Dilipak faces up to six years in prison.
July 29, 1998
Abdurrahman Dilipak, Akit LEGAL ACTION
An Istanbul criminal court of first instance charged Dilipak, a veteran columnist for the Islamist daily Akit,under Article 268 of the Penal Code (insulting official or military delegations) for a column titled “Exhaustion” that he wrote for the June 11, 1998 edition of Akit.
The column criticized Turkish universities’ decision to ban the use of headscarves by female students (the decision sparked demonstrations). “Whose voice does the Western Working Group represent?” asked Dilipak, referring to the shadowy group within the military whose job is reportedly to monitor political Islam in Turkey.
Dilipak faces up to three years in prison if convicted of the charges.
July 6, 1998
Abderrahman Dilipak, Akit LEGAL ACTION
State prosecutors charged Dilipak, a veteran columnist for the Islamist daily Akit,with violating Article 159 of the Turkish Penal Code (insulting state institutions and the military).
The charge stemmed from a column Dilipak wrote in Akit,titled “Turkish Armed Forces and Kaplan,” which criticized the arrest and military court trial of fellow Akitjournalist Yasar Kaplan (see below). In his article, Dilipak described the use of military courts to try civilians as a violation of Turkish and international law. “This incident cannot be accepted by the law, the court, or by Turkey,” wrote Dilipak. “These kinds of incidents isolate Turkey and make the state untrustworthy to its people.”
If convicted, he faces up to three years in prison.
March 7, 1998
Yasar Kaplan, Akit LEGAL ACTION
Kaplan, a reporter with the Islamist daily Akit,was arrested on warrant and subsequently charged by a military court under Article 95/4 of the Military Penal Code (insulting the military and harming the military hierarchy).
The charge was based on three articles that Kaplan published in Akitbetween February 18-20 which discussed sectarian divisions in the Turkish military. The trial began on April 22, after which Kaplan was released pending its outcome. He was convicted on July 14 and sentenced to 14 months in prison. On July 21 his lawyer appealed the decision to the Military High Court, which quashed the decision on January 15, 1999, and ordered a re-trial.
Kaplan has since fled the country.
January 26, 1998
Abderrahman Dilipak, Akit LEGAL ACTION
State prosecutors charged Dilipak, a veteran columnist for the Islamist daily Akit, under Article 268 of the Penal Code (insulting official or military delegations).The charges stemmed from two columns that Dilipak wrote for the August 26 and September 2, 1997 editions of Akit.Both columns attacked the government’s decision to raise the age at which students would be allowed to attend Imam Hatip (religious) schools in Turkey.
If convicted, Dilipak faces possible imprisonment.
July 20, 1994
Haluk Gerger, Özgür Ülke LEGAL ACTION
An Istanbul State Security Court charged Gerger, a political essayist and former contributor to the now defunct pro-Kurdish daily Özgür Ülke,with violating Article 8 of the Anti-Terror Law (disseminating separatist propaganda).
The charge stemmed from an article titled “Debt” that appeared in the June 28,1994 edition of Özgür Ülke.Gerger wrote about charges brought against him in the State Security Court in response to his analysis of the Kurdish question in Turkey. Prosecutors specifically objected to Gerger’s statement that “if there was no Marxism, I would never have encountered the Kurdish national movement. If it were not for the resistance of the Kurdish people, I would never have been able to enter the door which Marxism has opened for me.”
According to Gerger’s lawyer, the case is still pending in the State Security Court.
III. LEGAL ACTION FEARED
June 23, 1999
Nadire Meter, Inter Press Service
An Istanbul court banned distribution of the book Mehmed’s Book: Soldiers Who Have Fought in the Southeast Speak Out,written by Nadire Mater, a free-lance reporter with the international news agency Inter Press Service.
The book consists of interviews with 42 former Turkish soldiers who had fought in the civil conflict in Southeastern Turkey. The court ruled that Mehmed’s Book,first published in April 1999, violated Article 159 of the Turkish Penal Code by insulting the Turkish military. Before the ban took effect, Mehmed’s Bookwent through four editions and sold around 9,000 copies.
Immediately after the court decision, police confiscated unsold copies from the book’s publisher, Metis Publishers. Meter will likely be charged under Article 159 (insulting the military), as is customary for authors of books that are banned for violating Turkey’s harsh statutes restricting free expression. Article 159 carries a penalty of up to six years in prison.