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Turkey19 June 2002

Journalist jailed for 15 years, editor of major newspaper arrested

Memik Horuz, editor of the far-left publication Isçi Köylü, was sentenced to 15 years in prison on 13 June for belonging to an illegal armed organisation, as a result of publishing interviews with far-left activists. Two days later, Ibrahim Yildiz, managing editor of the daily paper Cumhuriyet, was illegally detained for questioning.

"The methods of judiciary officials and the police in Turkey are appalling," said Reporters sans frontières secretary-general Robert Ménard in a letter to Turkish justice minister Hikmet Sami Turk expressing concern at the two developments and protesting at the cavalier way the two cases had been handled.

"Horuz was sentenced just on the basis of one article he wrote and of one witness’s evidence, which was demolished point-by-point by the defence lawyers," he said. "Yildiz was held 12 hours for questioning simply because the police had did not have their files up to date. We ask you to free Horuz at once."

Horuz, who was sentenced by the Ankara no. 2 state security court under Article 168 (2) of the criminal code and sent to the city’s Sincan Prison on 18 June, was accused of writing a feature based on interviews with members of a banned organisation, the armed wing of the Turkish Marxist-Leninist Party (TKP/ML TIKKO) and of publishing it in Özgür Geleçek in November 2000. The court refused to reduce the sentence for good behaviour, as permitted under Article 59 of the criminal code.

The only evidence the court considered to reach its conclusion were the article and the testimony of an alleged former TKP/ML TIKKO member, Erol Cetin, who claimed Horuz was a member of the party and had taken part in some trainings. The defence produced alibis for every date and fact put forward by Cetin and said there was evidence for the charges.

Reporters sans frontières notes that Turkey’s press council considers that Horuz was convicted for his journalistic activities, although the formal charges against him are not linked to his journalism.

Cumhuriyet managing editor Yildiz was arrested for no apparent reason in an Ankara hotel during the night of 14-15 June and held 12 hours for questioning, after which he was taken before a court and then released. Police had been looking for him in connection with an article about a bank, for which he had been sued in 1996 and then amnestied the following year. However, the police files were not up to date on this. Since Yildiz had received no information about the legal action against him, the police had no right to arrest him and should have simply summoned him.

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