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Turkey30 December 2005

Kurdish journalist freed on bail after being held for four months

Birol Duru, a correspondent for the pro-Kurdish news agency DIHA, has been released provisionally from Diyarbakir prison in southeastern Turkey, where he had been held since 10 August. His release was granted yesterday at the end of the second hearing in his trial, which began on 8 December. Duru is still being prosecuted for alleged membership of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is considered a terrorist organisation by the Turkish authorities.

He was found in possession of a PKK propaganda cassette when detained while he was investigating cannabis trafficking in the southeastern town of Bingöl, in which the local police chief was allegedly implicated. He denies being a PKK member and claims he has been the victim of plot. He was additionally charged on 17 November with “denigrating the security forces” in the same case. He faces a sentence of between three and ten years in prison. No date has been set for the next hearing.

13 December 2005

Journalist Birol Duru still in prison after four months

Journalist Birol Duru, of the pro-Kurd news agency Diha, has been imprisoned for four months in south-eastern Turkey, following his arrest in the village of Dinarbey on 10 August.

He is facing charges of “collaboration with the PKK” under Articles 220 paragraph 7 (membership of an armed organisation) and 314 paragraph 3 (membership of a criminal organisation) of Turkish criminal law. He is currently being held in Diyarbakir jail.

“The hasty accusations the authorities have laid against the journalist are evidence of abusive use of the Turkish criminal code to act against human rights activists and journalists”, said Reporters Without Borders.

“The imprisonment of Birol Duru is based on badly drawn up articles, the vagueness of which allows the authorities to attack journalists at will,” it added.

The authorities accuse Duru of being in possession of a video-tape showing Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants attacking a Turkish military vehicle in the village of Eskibalta on 26 July. They also accuse him of planning to supply the tape to news agencies and national TV channels. Police in Dinarbey seized his film camera, sound recorder and stills camera so that “the evidence should not be destroyed”.

The journalist’s lawyers have been trying unsuccessfully to secure his release by successively taking the case before a court in Karlovia, the Bingol correctional tribunal and the court of assizes in Diyarkabir.

Article 100 of the law on criminal procedure, requires that the accused should remain in custody “if there is a risk of escape, a possibility of destroying, hiding or tampering with evidence or if there is a risk of intimidating witnesses on the part of the accused.”

Duru was on 17 November also charged with “denigrating the security forces”, under Article 301 of the Turkish criminal code, for publishing via the Diha news agency, in collaboration with the local section of the Turkish human rights organisation (IHD), a report that security forces were burning forests in Bingol and Tunceli, in the south-east of the country.

The court in Diyarbakir has still not reached a decision on Duru’s fate, or of that of Daimi Acig, a member of IHD, who was arrested with the journalist on 10 August.

The first hearing in the trial was held on 8 December before the 4th chamber of assizes in Diyarkabir. One of Duru’s lawyers, Servet Ozen, contested the charge, saying that the video-tape did not belong to his client, and in any case, it was only a propaganda tape the organisation had supplied to a journalist. “My client only wanted to inform public opinion about an existing fact“, said Ozen.

The case has now been adjourned 28 December.

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