A court in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır ruled to release Vedat Kurşun, the chief editor of the Kurdish daily Azadiye Welat, in accordance with the Third Judicial Reform Package that came into force earlier this month, after he spent three years and seven months behind bars in the Diyarbakır D-Type Closed Prison.
Kurşun was entangled in a series of complicated trials on terrorism related charges and last arrested by order of the Diyarbakır Fifth High Criminal Court on Jan. 29, 2009. The court delegation had sentenced him to a jaw-dropping 166 years and six months in prison, but following a decision by the Supreme Court of Appeals, judicial authorities later reduced this sentence down to 10 years and six months.
"They filed suits against all the issues of the newspaper I have been publishing for two years, save for a few," Kurşun had told bianet in a letter.
The court decided to release Kurşun in compliance with a section in the Third Judicial Package that stipulates the suspension of prison sentences incurred through the offense of "making propaganda on behalf of a terrorist organization" via the press.
"There are no documents beyond the newspapers' issues and distorted translation records of the court or any other documents of any sort that [could be] taken as [evidence] of a crime," he said.
A tale of justice gone awry
Vedat Kurşun related the details of his long-winded entanglement in the halls of Turkish justice in a letter he had penned to bianet:
"The Diyarbakır Sixth High Criminal Court arrested me [when] I went there to testify on Feb. 5, 2008 and [placed] me in the Diyarbakır D-Type Prison. I was released three months later in consequence of intense public pressure," Kurşun said in his letter.
"The prosecution requested 105 years in prison for me. The court delegation sentenced me to four and a half years on the charge of 'making propaganda on behalf of a terrorist organization.' This case is still pending in the Supreme Court of Appeals."
"I was arrested on Jan. 29, 2009 by order of the Diyarbakır Fifth High Criminal Court. The prosecutor requested 525 years in prison for me in this case. The court delegation sentenced me to 166 years and six months in prison on May 13, 2010. The Supreme Court of Appeals overturned this decision about a year later and sent it back to the local court. This time around, I was sentenced to 10 years and six months in prison. This case is also pending in the Supreme Court of Appeals."
"The Diyarbakır Fourth High Criminal Court sentenced me to three years in prison over the same charges on Feb., 2010. This file is also pending in the Supreme Court of Appeals. Moreover, I have also been sentenced to four years in prison by high criminal courts in Istanbul in suits filed against me at various dates. These files are also pending in the Supreme Court of Appeals, as in the other cases," Kurşun explained in his letter.
And what of the rest?
Azadiye Welat's managing editors Ruken Ergün and Ozan Kılıç are still serving time behind bars.
A total of 95 journalists landed in jail in the month of July, according to the BIA Media Monitoring Report, and Kurşun was also among their ranks.
Courts sentenced 24 people, including six journalists, to a total of 91 years, nine months and 18 days in prison, as well as to pay 40,000 Turkish Liras in fines, on April, May and June, 2012.
Some 35 distributors were also serving time in jail during the second quarter of 2012. (AS)
*Click here to access the BIA Media Monitoring Report for April-May-June 2012.