Turkey clears RSF representative of ‘terror propaganda’

The three acquitted persons, Erol Onderoglu, Sebnem Korur Fincanci and Ahmet Nesin, faced 14 years of imprisonment during their trial. (File/AFP)
Updated 17 July 2019
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Turkey clears RSF representative of ‘terror propaganda’

  • The three could have been jailed for 14 years
  • Guest editors took control over the paper to support Ozgur Gundem

ISTANBUL: The Turkey representative for Reporters Without Borders (RSF) was acquitted on Wednesday of the charge of making “terror propaganda” for Kurdish militants, in a case which triggered international alarm over press freedom in the country.
With dozens of journalists behind bars and on trial, activists claim the climate for the media has deteriorated under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Supporters erupted into applause after RSF representative Erol Onderoglu, rights activist Sebnem Korur Fincanci and journalist Ahmet Nesin were acquitted by an Istanbul court.
They were accused of making “terror propaganda” on behalf of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) after guest-editing the pro-Kurdish Turkish newspaper Ozgur Gundem, as well as “condoning crime” and “inciting crime.”
The three risked 14 years in jail in the trial which began in November 2016.
Ozgur Gundem had invited guest editors to take control of the paper in a campaign of solidarity as it faced pressure from the Turkish authorities.
The newspaper was raided and permanently shut down in August 2016, accused of links with the PKK which has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984.
The three campaigners were detained for a short period in 2016, and can now apply for financial compensation for time spent in jail.
The acquittals are in stark contrast with the harsh verdicts handed down by Turkish courts to critical journalists in recent years, the most controversial of which was the case against opposition daily Cumhuriyet whose former staff have been sentenced to jail.
“I warmly thank all those who supported us during the trial,” Onderoglu, who will return to Istanbul next week, said via text message.
But he added: “The fight continues for all our colleagues unjustly on trial or imprisoned.”
RSF said on Twitter it was “deeply relieved” by the acquittals but called for another trial due to begin against Onderoglu later this year to be scrapped.
Onderoglu faces the same accusation of making “terror propaganda” after supporting academics who signed a petition calling for peace and the end of security operations against militants in the Kurdish-majority southeast.
“Three years of absurd proceedings was already a form of unjust punishment. AND a new trial against Erol will start on 7 November. These charges must be dropped!” RSF said.
Only Fincanci attended the hearing while Onderoglu and Nesin were abroad.
Fincanci told AFP she was “very surprised” by the acquittal.


Tunisia media mogul still candidate despite arrest: commission

Updated 19 min ago
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Tunisia media mogul still candidate despite arrest: commission

  • Karoui is one of 26 presidential candidates given preliminary approval this month to run in the September 15 election

TUNIS: Media magnate Nabil Karoui remains in the race for Tunisia’s upcoming presidential election despite his arrest for alleged money laundering, the head of the country’s electoral commission said on Saturday.
Karoui, one of 26 presidential candidates given preliminary approval this month to run in the September 15 election, was arrested on Friday, his party said.
A judicial official said an arrest warrant had been issued for Karoui and his brother Ghazi for money laundering.
“Nabil Karoui is still a candidate and his name remains on the preliminary and definite list of candidates” who are vying to become Tunisia’s next president, electoral commission (ISIE) head Nabil Baffoun said.
“Following his arrest... as long as there are no changes in his legal status... he remains a presidential candidate,” Baffoun told the private Mosaique FM radio station.
According to Baffoun, candidatures of individuals who have been convicted in Tunisia are accepted as long as the verdict against them does not specifically say they are banned from running in an election.
The tycoon was charged with money laundering in early July shortly after stating his intention to stand in the polls, but has remained a leading candidate.
His party announced his arrest the same day that authorities declared a ban on three local outlets — including Karoui’s Nessma TV — from reporting on the election campaign over unlicensed “illegal” broadcasts.
Karoui has been accused by regulators and some politicians of using Nessma to bolster his political ambitions.
He was nearly removed from the race in June when parliament passed an amended electoral code that would bar any candidate who handed out “favors in cash or in kind” in the year before the vote.
But then-president Beji Caid Essebsi neither rejected nor enacted the bill, leaving the door open for Karoui to run.