Vedat Kursun, former editor of the Kurdish daily, Azadiya Welat was on Wednesday sentenced by a Turkish court to three years in prison in connection with two articles deemed to have spread propaganda for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, PKK – which is considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the European Union, the United States and many other countries.
Kursun faces a cumulative total of 525 years in prison after being charged with 105 counts of “helping and abetting the PKK organization by spreading propaganda” and “glorifying crimes and criminals” in articles published in numerous issues of the newspaper. Kursun has already served 13 months in jail while awaiting his trial, after being arrested in Istanbul in January 2009 as he arrived in the city to testify in another case.
This is not the first time that a journalist from Azadiya Welat has been sent to jail. Ozan Kilinc, who was appointed editor of the newspaper after Kursun’s arrest, was sentenced to 21 years in prison in February this year for publishing reports and pictures about the PKK and its jailed leader in 12 separate issues of Azadiya Welat.
According to news reports, Azadiya Welat has replaced its chief editor six times since 2006. All six editors have been either jailed or fled the country to escape prison.
“The sentencing of Mr. Kursun to three years’ imprisonment casts a shadow over Turkish justice,” said IPI Director David Dadge. “Rather than the dispassionate application of the law, this looks very much like a decision to punish a journalist for practicing his profession. This sentence sends a signal to all Turkish journalists that they are at risk, if they anger the state.”
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