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Turkey1 June 2005

Austrian journalist Sandra Bakutz finally acquitted

(JPEG) Austrian freelance journalist Sandra Bakutz, who had been facing a sentence of 10-15 years in prison on a charge of belonging to an illegal organisation, was acquitted today by the Ankara court for heavy penalties on grounds of insufficient evidence. Bakutz had been released from police custody on 30 March and allowed to return to Austria pending today’s hearing, in which the judges decided to drop all charges against her. Reporters Without Borders welcomes today’s outcome.

30 March 2005 Ankara court frees Austrian journalist provisionally, leaves charges in place

Reporters Without Borders voiced relief at an Ankara court’s decision today to provisionally free Austrian journalist Sandra Bakutz pending trial on 1 June, but urged the Turkish authorities to go one step further and drop the charges against her of belonging to an illegal organization.

"This young Austrian journalist has wasted enough days in prison," the press freedom organization said, adding, "her release should definitive instead of provisional because the authorities have failed to support the charges against her."

Today’s hearing at the Ankara court for heavy penalties began at 2 p.m. in the presence of many Turkish and Austrian journalists and a Reporters Without Borders representative. Judge Orhan Karadeniz presided.

Although prosecutor Salim Demirci produced no hard evidence, the court accepted his presentation of the charges while rejecting his request for Bakutz to remain in custody. Speaking in German, Bakutz rejected all the charges. She was defended by more than 20 lawyers.

A reporter for Austrian radio station Orange 94.0 and the German weekly Junge Welt, Bakutz was arrested on her arrival at Istanbul’s Atatürk airport on 10 February on a charge of "belonging to an illegal organization." She was transferred to the Pasakapisi detention centre in Istanbul on 16 February and from there to Gebze prison, 50 km to the south. Finally, on 1 March, she was transferred to Ulucanlar prison in Ankara, where she remained until today’s hearing.

There will no restrictions on Bakutz’s movement while she awaits trial on 1 June. She still faces the possibility of a prison sentence of 10 to 15 years.

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