Pro-Kurdish newspaper editors given seven-year jail terms

A Turkish court sentenced the CEO and editor-in-chief of the now defunct pro-Kurdish newspaper Özgür Gündem to seven-and-a-half years in prison on charges of insulting the president, the country and its people, left-wing news portal Artı Gerçek said.

Eren Keskin, who was CEO of the newspaper, is vice-president of the Turkish Human Rights Association and the founder of the Legal Aid Bureau against Sexual Harassment and Rape in Custody, and Reyhan Çapan, the newspaper’s former editor-in-chief, were each given the sentences on charges of violating the 299th and 301st clauses of Turkish criminal law, which deal with insulting the president of the Turkish republic and insulting the Turkish republic, the Turkish people or the Turkish parliament respectively.

They are also charged with producing terrorist propaganda for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a Kurdish group engaged in conflict with the Turkish state, which will be dealt with at a later hearing.

“I have both been fined and sentenced to many prison sentences,” Keskin said. “I have only defended the freedom to write articles and freedom of expression. It is impossible to talk about human rights in a region where the penalty for freedom of expression is this heavy.”

Moreover, she added, she had not personally written any of the articles the court objected to.

“I call on the European Union to act,” she said.

She has pledged to go to prison rather than to flee abroad. The sentences against the pair have yet to be enforced.