Turkish journalist to stand trial for ‘insulting’ gov’t, state

Journalist and author Bahadır Özgür faces a prison sentence ranging from six months to two years for allegedly insulting the Turkish nation, the Republic of Turkey and state institutions during a speech at a book fair, the Bianet news website reported.

The charges stem from comments Özgür made at a book fair in October 2022 regarding his book “The Wall: Sedat Peker’s Confessions and Allegations,” which he co-authored with Ahmet Şık, Ertuğrul Mavioğlu, Hakkı Özdal and Timur Soykan

The book discusses various allegations and confessions by the infamous mafia boss Sedat Peker, which led to increased scrutiny and subsequent restrictions on Özgür and his co-authors.

Along with his co-author Şık, another journalist who was famously imprisoned for 15 months between December 2016 and March 2018 due to his tweets and news reports, their discussion at the fair highlighted historical connections between the state and mafia based on the claims made by Peker.

Peker, who fled Turkey in early 2020, currently lives in the United Arab Emirates. The 52-year-old mobster began posting videos and tweets, making a series of scandalous claims against political figures, mainly from the government, including allegations of murder, rape, corruption and drug trafficking.

“The prosecutor has decided that by describing the relationships between criminal organizations and the state, I have insulted the state,” Özgür said.

The prosecutor’s office launched an investigation into Özgür based on Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code for allegedly “insulting the State of the Republic of Turkey, the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, the Government of the Republic of Turkey and the judicial bodies.”

The trial is set to take place at the Mudanya Criminal Court of First Instance.

Article 301 criminalizes denigration of the Turkish nation, the Turkish state, the Turkish parliament, the government and the judicial institutions of the state.

Rights groups and international organizations have been urging Turkey to abolish the law, which they say is an undue restriction on free speech.

Insult charges are often leveled against ordinary citizens expressing criticism and journalists covering news.

Turkey, which is known as one of the top jailers of journalists in the world, ranks 158th among 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2024 World Press Freedom Index, which was released in early May.

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