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Quotes costs Turkish journalist prison sentence

By Index on Censorship / 9 June, 2010


Irfan Atkan has been sentenced to 15 months in prison under Turkey’s draconian anti-terror laws

A court in Istanbul has sentenced journalist Irfan Aktan to 15 months in prison for his article “Weather Forecast in the Region and in Kandil: There Can be No Solution without a Struggle” published in the bi-monthly journal Express.

The court also punished the journal’s editor in chief Merve Erol with a fine of 16 thousand Turkish Liras (€ 8500) for the article, published on 15 October 2009.

The sentences were handed down under article 7 of the anti-terror law — “propaganda on behalf of the terrorist organization.” The decision was based on the words of a PKK member and a one sentence quotation from the Özgür Halk (Free People) magazine.

The court first sentenced Aktan to the minimum 1 year, later increasing it to 18 months as the action was press related. In the end, the sentence was set at 15 months, based on “good conduct”.

The journalists defended themselves by saying that the piece was written at a time when the “Kurdish Opening” was being discussed. They maintained that the sentiment that the violence was completely over could be misleading, that there is a segment within the PKK that does not want to lay down their arms, and that the public had a right to know this.

Aktan’s attorney Tora Pekin has said he will appeal the court’s conviction decision. If the Court of Appeals approves the sentence, İrfan Aktan will serve a prison sentence. If the decision is overruled by the Court of Appeals, the lower court will have to re-evaluate the case. Defendants Aktan and Erol will object to the court’s ruling on Monday.

Twenty-nine year old Aktan has worked for Turkish newspapers and magazines for 10 years. He has written two books, entitled; “Naze: A story of Migration” and “Poison and Antidote”. He currently works for the bimonthly magazines Express and Yeni Aktuel. Aktan also contributes to Newsweek’s Turkey edition.

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