ANKARA: Columnist Murat Yetkin Faces 4.5 Years Jail

Erol Onderoglu

BÝA, Turkey
June 29 2006

Istanbul prosecutor demands up to 4.5 years imprisonment for "Radikal"
daily columnist Yetkin for criticizing the controversial trial of
internationally accredited Turkish author Orhan Pamuk.

BÝA (Istanbul) – Journalist, author and "Radikal" newspaper columnist
Murat Yetkin has been charged by an Istanbul prosecutor for "attempting
to influence a fair trial" by criticising a 2005 controversial court
case opened against Turkey’s internationally accredited writer Orhan
Pamuk, and may face up to 4.5 years imprisonment if found guilty of
the offence.

Yetkin’s September 18, 2005 dated commentary "Turkey will be put
on trial in the case launched against Orhan Pamuk" was subject to
an investigation where the Istanbul Bagcilar 2nd Court of First
Instance prosecutor on May 4 decided to proceed with the prosecution
of the writer.

The offending article stressed that the Pamuk case would challenge
Turkey during its accession talks with the European Union and asked
"how many people in [capital] Ankara are aware that Turkey will be
on trial in this case as much as Pamuk?"

Yetkin will appear before the court on August 24.

More trials under Article 288

Article 288 of the Turkish Penal Code where comments and opinions
with regard to ongoing court cases are regulated, governs the
controversial charges of "influencing the justice" or "insulting the
court" in Turkey.

Accordingly any verbal or written statement made with the "attempt to
influence the prosecutor, judge, court, expert of witnesses before the
final verdict is passed in an investigation or prosecution launched
with regard to an incident" can be punished with 6 months to a maximum
of 3 years imprisonment. Where the "offence is committed through the
press or by way of publication, the penalty is increased by half".

"Milliyet" and "Radikal" newspaper journalists Hasan Cemal, Ýsmet
Berkan, Haluk Sahin and Erol Katircioglu were on trial for their
own criticism of a court order banning a conference in Istanbul on
Ottoman Armenians but the case was dismissed earlier this year due to
statue of limitations. The Bagcilar Prosecutor’s Office then appealed
the dismissal.

"Radikal" newspaper columnist Murat Belge has only recently been
acquitted on the same charge in a June 8 hearing this year.

Under article 288, the Bagcilar 2nd Court of First Instance had also
tried Van Yuzuncu Yil University Press and Public Relations coordinator
Nalan Akgun and English Language and Literature Department official
Azer Banu Kemaloglu who were charged with attempting to influence
a fair trial by wearing white ribbons on their necks to protest
the arrest of the University Dean Prof. Dr. Yucel Askin. Both were
acquitted in an April 17 hearing.

"Agos" newspaper writers Hrant Dink, Aydin Engin, Serkis Seropyan and
Arat Dink are, however, still being tried under this article and will
appear before the Sisli 2nd Court of First Instance on July 4. The
case is being closely monitored by freedom of expression activists
and organisations world-wide.

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