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Journalist Burak Bekdil receives 18-month suspended sentence

(WiPC/IFEX) - Burak Bekdil, a journalist for the "Turkish Daily News" and several western publications, has been found guilty of "insulting the judiciary" and sentenced to an 18-month suspended prison term. International PEN considers the conviction to be a direct breach of the right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights (Article 10). The organisation calls for a review of Article 159 of the Turkish Penal Code, under which Bekdil was convicted.

Bekdil was convicted for an article published in the English-language "Turkish Daily News", entitled "Turkey's de jure Untouchables". The article takes a humorous approach on the issue of corruption within the judiciary and appeared in Bekdil's regular "Equilibrium" column in the 28 August 2001 edition of the "Turkish Daily News". The article begins by expressing the need for close relatives in the judiciary in order to have "a peaceful life in Turkey", and goes on to list necessary steps for those "brave (or crazy) enough to seek justice at a Turkish court". He recommends, for example, making friendly overtures to the court clerk and advises never filing a complaint against a judge.

Following the publication of the above article, Bekdil was summoned to the State Prosecutor's Office on 25 September 2001 under Article 159 of the Turkish Penal Code, that penalises "insult to the state and its institutions", carrying a maximum sentence of six years. The trial opened on 21 December 2001 and several hearings were held before the 18-month suspended sentence was
announced on 17 May. It is thought that Bekdil will appeal the sentence.

Recommended Action

Send appeals to authorities:
- expressing regret at the decision to convict Bekdil to a suspended prison term of 18 months
- pointing out that this is in direct denial of the right to freedom of expression as guaranteed under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Turkey is a signatory
- in light of this decision, urging that Article 159 of the Turkish Penal Code be reviewed with the aim of removing from its remit any further possibilities of it being used in contravention of international standards protecting the right to free expression

Appeals To

Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit
Ankara, Turkey
Fax: + 90 312 417 0476

His Excellency Hikmet Sami Turk
Minister of Justice
Adalet Bakaligi
06440 Bakaniklar
Ankara, Turkey
Fax: +90 312 417 3954

Please copy appeals to the source if possible.

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