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Turkey26 October 2005

Nine months in prison for journalist who “insulted” town’s deputy prefect

Sentences passed on two journalists for allegedly insulting the deputy prefect of the south coast town of Datça - nine months in prison and a fine of 350 euros for one, and a fine of 500 euros with no prison term for the other - seem “totally disproportionate,” Reporters Without Borders said today, calling for the sentences to be quashed on appeal.

They were passed on 19 October by the Datça magistrate’s court on Sinan Kara of the fortnightly Datça Haber (who got the nine-month prison term) and Gülden Aydin of the daily Hürriyet.

“The fears we voiced when the new criminal code was adopted on 1 June have unfortunately turned out to be justified,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Turkey, which says it would like to join the European Union soon, must urgently abolish prison sentence for press offences.”

Kara and Aydin were convicted under article 125 of the new code (article 482/4 of the old one) of using the press to insult deputy prefect Savas Tuncer, who had brought complaints against them.

Tuncer claimed that Kara insulted him in a book published in March 2003 entitled “Sinan’s black book.” A former correspondent for the news agency Dogan, Kara has often written critically about local politicians. The book questioned several of Tuncer’s administrative decisions and indirectly accused him of exercising undue influence over the city’s prosecutor and judges.

Aydin was alleged to have insulted Tuncer in a 4 May 2002 article entitled “His life turns black after writing a book.” He wrote: “The state’s local representatives rub shoulders in the small town of Datça. For the court to impose a punishment, the deputy prefect just has to write a letter to the prosecutor, or the judge, or to his friends.”

This is Kara’s third conviction for “insulting by means of the press.” He was detained from 26 December 2002 to 7 February 2003 in Ula prison near the southwestern city of Mugla for failing to provide the deputy prefect with two copies of his newspaper as required by the law.

He went back to jail on 27 October 2003, this time spending five months in Urla prison in the western city of Izmir after being convicted of threatening the bodyguards of Mert Ciller, the son of former prime minister Tansu Ciller, while he was holidaying in Datça in 2000. Kara had tried to photograph him.

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