Author Güler And Publisher Zarakolu Convicted

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By Emir Çelik

ISTANBUL (Bianet.org) — On Thursday, March 10, author Mehmet Güler and Belge Publishing executive Ragıp Zarakolu were convicted on charges of “spreading propaganda for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party” (PKK) by reason of the book The KCK file/Global state and Kurds without a State. Their conviction came despite the prosecutor’s plead for their acquittal. The book was immediately banned and confiscated in May 2010 right after it had been published at the first book fair in Diyarbakir.

Prosecutor Kasım Ilimoglu said at the third and final hearing, “According to the criminal law, handing down a restricting prison sentence on the grounds of this sort of publications does not comply with a moderate and democratic society.”

In his final speech, Ilimoglu emphasized, “The principle of not to accuse anybody because of his/her thoughts and opinions which shall not even be limited during war or other extraordinary circumstances according to Article 15 of the Constitution should be taken into account.”

“The line between freedom of thought and expression and spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization has to be clearly defined from case to case. In our opinion, the criminal law has to be used extremely carefully and limited in this kind of issues.”

“In the name of the people I request the acquittal of both defendants because the offences imputed on the defendants lack legal elements of crime.”

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The Court Board of the Istanbul 10th High Criminal Court was chaired by Judge Ömer Diken who sentenced both defendants on charges of “making propaganda for an illegal organization.”

Güler received a prison sentence of one year and three months ; Zarakolu was handed down a monetary fine of 16,660 Turkish Lira (€ 8,330) corresponding to 833 days in prison. Both verdicts were based on Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Law.

Güler and Zarakolu stood trial before on the grounds of another book, More Difficult Decisions than Death. In that case, Güler was sentenced to one year and three months in jail and Zarakolu was acquitted in June 2010. Zarakolu referred to that decision when he commented on the decision: “I was acquitted in the previous case. This time, justice was dispensed and manifested. I am deeply moved. For the first time, a prosecutor plead for my acquittal.”

Güler said that the prosecutor’s references to the text of the Constitution and the case law of the European Court of Human Rights took his attention. He announced he would appeal the decision. The indictment prepared by Istanbul Public Prosecutor Hakan Kraali accused Zarakolu and Güler of “publishing statements of the PKK” and “spreading propaganda for the PKK.”

The book is still banned from publication.