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Turkey4 December 2008

Thirteen-year jail term requested for provincial newspaper editor who accused prosecutor of bias

Reporters Without Borders deplores the 13-year prison sentence which a prosecutor in Gerger, in the southeastern province of Adiyaman, requested on 2 December for Haci Bogatekin, the owner and editor of the local fortnightly Gerger Firat, for an article accusing another local prosecutor of bias.

A four-and-a-half-year sentence was also requested for the editor of a website that posted the article.

“This is a disgrace,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Bogatekin has already spent 109 days in detention because of this case. “What he is alleged to have done in no way justifies this treatment, which is clearly motivated by a desire to punish him for criticising a prosecutor who abused his authority and attacked press freedom.”

Bogatekin’s 2 December court appearance was the seventh time he has gone before a judge in Gerger in this case, in which he is charged with trying to influence the course of a trial and with insulting and defaming Sadullah Ovacikli, a local prosecutor.

The case dates back to January, when Ovacikli summoned Bogatekin and threatened him in connection with an editorial entitled “Feto and Apo” referring to an influential Islamist community linked to religious leader Fethullah “Feto” Gülen, and the rivalry between Gülen’s movement and Kurdish separatists for popular support. The editorial also accused the Turkish army - seen by Turks as the guardian of the republic’s secular values - of abandoning the towns to the influence of the religious communities.

Bogatekin published the threats made against him by Ovacikli, at the same time claiming that he had evidence that the prosecutor was linked to Gülen’s movement, which has several million members and sympathisers in Turkey.

Bogatekin also filed a complaint against Ovacikli before the justice ministry and the High Council for the Judiciary (HSYK). But then, on 13 April, he was placed in pre-trial detention on the charge of insulting and defaming Ovacikli and was not released until 30 July.

Despite Bogatekin’s request, the judge presiding the 2 December hearing, Aysegül Simsek, ruled that there was no need to await a legal report on the status of his complaint against Ovacikli. She scheduled the next hearing for 5 February.

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