Journalist Hasan Cemal’s trial over columns on Kurdish settlement process begins

Veteran journalist Hasan Cemal (c) has frequently appeared before Turkish courts in recent years.

The trial of renowned Turkish journalist Hasan Cemal over his columns in 2013 that dealt with a settlement process for Turkey’s long-standing Kurdish problem began on Thursday in İstanbul.

During the hearing at the İstanbul 24th High Criminal Court on Thursday, Cemal was accused of disseminating the propaganda of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in his columns published in 2013 on the T24 news website when the ruling Justice and Development Party was supporting the settlement process, launched by the government in 2012 in talks with PKK representatives.

The indictment prepared by İstanbul Public Prosecutor Edip Şahiner demanded 13 years in prison for Cemal for “disseminating the propaganda of a terrorist organization.”

Denying the charges leveled against him during his defense, Cemal said he only performed his job as a journalist.

“Everyone wanted peace at that time. As a journalist, I just questioned how the path to the mountains [to join the PKK] was opened and how it could be closed. It was only journalism,” he said.

The İstanbul 24th High Criminal Court, consisting of judges Hulusi Pur, Halit İçdemir and Çağlayan Özbay, adjourned the trial until March 31 after Cemal’s lawyers requested time to prepare his defense.

In a series of columns in May 2013 titled “Çekilme Günlüğü” (Diaries of Withdrawal), Cemal wrote about the peace process in which it was envisioned that PKK militants would “peacefully” lay down their arms.

Following the general elections of June 2015, when the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) was not able to form a single party government, then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the settlement process had been shattered due to a violent attack by the PKK that killed two police officers in Şanlıurfa province, on July 22, 2015.

According to reports in the Turkish media, a total of 1,692 people including 594 civilians, 549 soldiers and 311 police officers have been killed in PKK terror attacks during the violence since July 2015.

On the other hand, according to an updated report released by Stockholm Center for Freedom, an advocacy group that monitors rights violations in Turkey, on March 1, 2017, the number of jailed journalist has reached to a new record of 200 with new arrestees. Of these journalists, 179 are arrested pending trial and without a conviction. Most of the journalists do not even know what the charges are or what evidence, if any, the government has because the indictments were not filed yet.

Also, over 180 media outlets have been closed by AKP government last year. (SCF with March 10, 2017

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