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Turkey jails Kurdish newspaper editor

10 February 10 19:54 GMT
By Jonathan Head
BBC News, Istanbul

A Turkish court has sentenced the editor of a Kurdish newspaper to 21 years in prison for publishing material sympathetic to the outlawed PKK.

The editor, Ozan Kilinc, allowed 12 editions of the paper to go out with references to the PKK, the Kurdistan Workers' Party.

Comments or acts judged supportive of the PKK are a serious crime in Turkey.

Turkey's record on media freedom is one of the main obstacles to its bid to become a member of the European Union.

Anti-terrorism law

Published in the city of Diyarbakir since 1994, the newspaper Azadiya Welat, or Independence Homeland, has already been shut down five times.

Judges deemed its references to the PKK to be giving support to a terrorist movement. The PKK is regarded as a terrorist group by the EU and the US.

The paper had described the jailed leader of the PKK, Abdullah Ocalan, as the "leader of the Kurdish people" - and it had failed to describe Turkish soldiers killed in battle as "martyrs".

Under Turkey's tough anti-terrorism law, that resulted in a sentence for its editor which is longer than the term prosecutors are demanding for the man accused of murdering the Armenian journalist Hrant Dink three years ago.

But this verdict is not unique.

Last month, a 15-year-old Kurdish girl was jailed for nearly eight years for throwing stones at police during a demonstration.

Prosecutors have demanded a 32-year sentence for a journalist charged over writing a book critical of the police investigation into Hrant Dink's murder.

The European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly challenged decisions by the Turkish courts.

EU officials say the prevailing culture among judges and prosecutors, and the severity of several articles in the criminal code, pose serious obstacles to Turkey's bid for EU membership.

But despite many promises, the government has so far made little progress in reforming the judiciary.

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