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Turkey22 April 2003

Journalist freed after nine years faces new prison term

Hasan Özgün, a reporter with the pro-Kurdish daily Özgür Gündem, was freed on 21 April after more than nine years in prison but now faces a further 12-year jail term for insulting state institutions.

"We are waiting for Turkey to prove the sincerity of its promises to conform to the European Union’s democratic standards if it is admitted as a member," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard. "This outdated and frequent misuse of the law to gag the media must stop."

When Özgün he emerged from prison in the southwestern town of Aydin, he told Erol Onderoglu, the Reporters Without Borders representative in Turkey, that his release left "a bitter taste" and that he had been badly treated during his detention.

Özgün, who was the paper’s correspondent in the southeastern town of Diyarbakir, will now be prosecuted for insulting state institutions (article 159 of the criminal code) in a petition in 1998 for a new trial. In the petition, he accused security forces of brutality under the state of emergency in southeastern Anatolia and of murdering journalists on pro-Kurdish newspapers. The case will be heard on 9 October and the prosecution has called for 12 years imprisonment.

Özgün was arrested in December 1993 and sentenced on 17 January 1996 to 12 years and six months in jail for "belonging to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party" (PKK). Colleagues being interrogated in 1993 were forced under torture to name him.

Four other journalists - Mustafa Benli, Kemal Evcimen, Memik Horuz and Nureddin Sirin - have been in prison for several years because of expressing their opinions as part of their job.

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