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Turkey6 June 2002

Journalist freed after 5 years in jail, while another is imprisoned

Reporters Without Borders said today it was pleased at the temporary release from prison of a woman journalist, Asiye Zeybek Güzel, after more than five years of detention without trial, but condemned the recent jailing of journalist Ahmet Aksoy for "separatist writings" and the continued imprisonment of another, Fikret Baskaya, for the same reason.

"Güzel has been raped and tortured in prison by police with complete impunity and we support her complaint before the European Court of Human Rights," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard in a letter to justice minister Hikmet Sami Turk which also called for the immediate release of the other two journalists.

Güzel, of the weekly paper Atilim, was freed on 6 June by Judge Seref Akçay of Istanbul’s no.2 state security court because of the excessive length of legal proceedings against her. But she will have to appear before the court on 7 August when she faces between three and 12_ years in prison for belonging to the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party (MLKP).

She was arrested on 22 February 1997 and taken to the anti-terrorist section of state security headquarters in Istanbul, where she was tortured and raped during 13 days of interrogation, before being sent to the prison at Gebze, where she has since been held. Rape charges against the police were dismissed and her lawyer, Ercan Kanar, has appealed to the European Court in connection with the rape and the excessive length of the legal procedure against her. He called on 27 March this year for her release and criticised the irregularities in her prosecution.

Baskaya, an academic and columnist with the pro-Kurdish daily Özgür Bakis, has been imprisoned since 29 June last year at Ankara’s Kalecik jail. On 26 January this year, the supreme court confirmed a 16-month jail sentence passed on him by the state security court for "separatist propaganda." On 10 May, Istanbul’s no.2 state security court rejected his request for release and suspension of the sentence, despite the recent revision of Article 8 of the anti-terrorist law under which he was charged. The next hearing of the case is set for tomorrow (7 June).

Aksoy, owner of the local newspaper Olusum in the southeastern town of Gaziantep, was jailed on 29 May in the town’s Nizip prison by order of the state prosecutor for allegedly "separatist writings" and "offending the reputation of the state" by calling it "fascist" in an article headed "Deniz, Hüseyin, Yusuf," which paid tribute to three prominent figures of the 1968 generation.

Four other journalists, Kemal Evcimen, Hasan Özgün, Nureddin Sirin and Mustafa Benli, are also in prison for their part in disseminating news and publications considered a threat to public order or state unity, although the material is entirely within the bounds of freedom and diversity of information by democratic standards.

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