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Turkey21 June 2006

Call for provisional release of Kurdish journalist accused of collaborating with PKK

Reporters Without Borders today called for the release on bail of Rüstu Demirkaya, a reporter with the Kurdish news agency Diha, who was placed in custody in Tunceli prison in eastern Turkey on 14 June on a charge of collaborating with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), also known as Kongra-Gel.

Demirkaya was reportedly arrested along with four other people during a military operation against PKK members in the Tunceli region on 11 June. A former PKK member supposedly accused him of contacts with PKK activists in the neighbouring village of Sakak last autumn, when he allegedly gave them a laptop and 10 virgin CD-ROM disks and briefed them about an military operation then under way. He faces up to 12 years in prison.

“We call for Demirkaya’s release on bail until his trial,” Reporters Without Borders said. “His release would not affect the investigation as the police know where he lives and there is no danger of evidence disappearing as the only evidence against him is an informant’s statement.”

The press freedom organisation added: “We would like to point out that journalists working for pro-Kurdish media are often accused of being PKK collaborators because they have covered military operations.”

Demirkaya’s lawyer, Baris Yildirim, formally requested his provisional release on 19 June.

Demirkaya is already facing a sentence of four and a half years in prison for covering the August 2005 release of a Turkish soldier kidnapped by the PKK the previous month. Three other local journalists, including Reuters correspondent Ferit Demir, covered the event. Their trial is due to start in September the 8th 2006.

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