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Turkish journalist being tried on charges of insulting PM in book

ISTANBUL - 17.06.2014 19:11:33

The third hearing in a trial against Turkish journalist Erol Özkoray, who is charged with insulting Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in his book “The Gezi Phenomenon,” will be held on Wednesday in İstanbul.

Prosecutors are seeking up to 32 months in prison for Özkoray, arguing that he violated Turkish Penal Code (TCK) statues on the “denigration of the Turkish nation.”

The law, which was introduced with legislative reforms of June 1, 2005, and replaced Article 159 of the previous penal code, states that any person who denigrates the Turkish nation, the republic or Parliament is punishable by imprisonment of between six months and three years. The first hearing in the Özkoray trial was held in İstanbul on March 20 and co-author of the book, Nurten Özkoray, is not being prosecuted.

In a written statement on Tuesday, media freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders called on the government to halt the trial against Özkoray.

Johann Bihr, head of the Reporters Without Borders' Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk, said that “attacking such a well-known person as Özkoray, they are sending a clear warning to Turkey's entire civil society.”

“A year after the demonstrations, the authorities continue to criminalize the ‘Occupy Gezi' movement and the way journalists covered it,” he said.

Prosecutor Hasan Bölükbaşı, who is seeking 32 months for Özkoray, points to expressions used in the book -- including “Don't be an ass, listen to the people” and “you are disgraced, resign” -- in his indictment.

But according to Özkoray, the slogans Bölükbaşı cited were very creative, ironic and humorous, the statement said.

“They [the slogans] belong to the 6 million people who revolted across Turkey. They are therefore anonymous. Attributing them to me and me alone is a judicial travesty," Özkoray said in the statement. He condemned the Turkish authorities for using excessive force during the peaceful Gezi protests that erupted across Turkey in June of 2013 and left eight dead and 10,000 injured. “The Islamist government is trying by all possible means to make people forget this uprising, of which the slogans are an integral part,” he said.

Özkoray won the Human Rights Association (IHD) 2014 Prize for Freedom of Thought and Expression for his democratic struggles against state power.

(Cihan/Today's Zaman)

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