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Turkey15 June 2004

Pro-Kurd journalists arrested ahead of Nato summit released ; two charged

Most of the 25 pro-Kurdish journalists and media workers were released between 8 and 12 June 2004. Only Ugur Balik, member of the executive board of the pro-Kurdish press agency Dicle and Baris Gullu, owner of the pro-Kurdish monthly Ozgur Halk, were imprisoned on 12 June. They were accused of having links with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), renamed Kongra-Gel.


Reporters Without Borders described as "shocking" an operation by anti-terrorist police who took 25 people into custody in raids on two pro-Kurdish publications and a press agency in Istanbul.

"The legitimate and necessary fight against terrorism can never justify such press freedom violations," the organisation said in a letter to Prime Minister Recep Erdogan. "We are shocked that the courts should treat journalists as if they were criminals."

Police, acting on the orders of the State Security Court of Istanbul, on 8 June searched the offices of pro-Kurdish press agency Dicle, arresting 16 journalists and other staff. Dicle’s lawyers said police suspected the journalists of links with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), renamed Kongra-Gel, and were looking for "banned material" in the run-up to the Nato summit in Istanbul on 28-29 June.

Three journalists on the Pro-Kurdish daily Ülkede Özgür Gündem, Hüsniye Tekin, Deniz Boyraz and Baki Gül, who arrived to cover the police raid on Dicle, were also taken into custody.

Anti-terrorist police also searched the offices of pro-Kurdish monthlies Özgür Halk and Genc Bakis and arrested six staff members. In each search police seized journalists’ files, books and computer disks.

"We ask you to explain how articles, books and disks seized during the searches could amount to ’banned material’," Reporters Without Borders continued in its letter to the prime minister.

Calling for the immediate release of the journalists and return of their property, the organisation stressed that the European Court of Human rights viewed searches of homes and offices of journalists as contrary to Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, unless there was a "pressing social need".

Police freed Hatice Özbaris, of Dicle later the same day but all the others remained in custody.

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