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

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.


British MPs urge UK government to recognize Palestine

Updated 22 January 2020

British MPs urge UK government to recognize Palestine

  • Palestinian envoy welcomes cross-party call ahead of visit by Prince Charles

LONDON: A group of British MPs has called for the UK to recognize the state of Palestine ahead of a visit by Prince Charles to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

In a letter to The Times, the MPs, along with figures from think tanks and pressure groups, said the move was long overdue and would help fulfill Britain’s “promise of equal rights for peoples in two states.” 

The call comes as the heir to the British throne travels on Thursday to Israel and the occupied West Bank. 

During the visit, he will meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem. 

Prince Charles will also attend the World Holocaust Forum to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. 

The letter said since 2014, no meaningful progress has been made in the peace process, and Israel’s actions are pushing a two-state solution beyond reach.

“Illegal Israeli settlements, described by the Foreign Office as undermining peace efforts, are expanding,” the letter said.

Among the signatories are Emily Thornberry, a candidate for the Labour Party leadership, and Crispin Blunt, chairman of the Conservative Middle East Council.

Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian envoy to the UK, welcomed the move but said full recognition from the British government should have happened many years ago.

“Recognition doesn’t contradict peacemaking and negotiations,” Zomlot told Arab News, referring to the main argument used by the UK against taking such a step. 

“It reinforces the vision (of a Palestinian state) and a negotiated two-state solution. It should happen now because of the threat of annexation (of Palestinian territory) and the killing of the two-state solution.”

FASTFACT

Prince Charles will also attend the World Holocaust Forum to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. 

Alistair Carmichael, a Liberal Democrat MP who signed the letter, told Arab News that the policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government toward Palestine “makes the achievement of a two-state solution more and more remote with every week that passes.”

He said: “The UK has historic and political obligations toward Israelis and Palestinians. There’s now no longer any good reason not to recognize the state of Palestine.”

A spokesman for Labour MP Fabian Hamilton, who also signed the letter, told Arab News: “The fact that this has cross-party support shows the growing desire across Parliament for the recognition of a Palestinian state and a two-state solution.”

Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, said the international community needs to finally stand up for the solution that it has had on the table for decades.

Doyle, an Arab News columnist, said the letter is an “indication that many people in British politics think we should be doing this, we should be standing up for the Palestinian right to self-determination, the legal rights, at a time when the state of Israel is doing everything to stop this, to take more land from the Palestinians.”

The letter was timed to coincide with a meeting of European foreign ministers on Monday, who discussed the Middle East peace process.

The Palestinian Authority, which runs parts of the West Bank, has been increasing calls for European countries to recognize the state of Palestine as the US has shifted to a more pro-Israel stance, including recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017.

Writing in The Guardian on Monday, Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said Europe could strengthen its role in the peace process if it recognized Palestine.

“European recognition of this state is not only a European responsibility but a concrete way to move towards a just and lasting peace,” he said.

Only nine out of the 28 EU countries have so far recognized Palestine as a state, compared to 138 out of the 193 UN member states.

In 2011, the UK’s then-Foreign Minister William Hague said the British government “reserves the right” to recognize Palestine “at a time of our own choosing, and when it can best serve the cause of peace.”

In 2012, the UN General Assembly voted to upgrade Palestine’s status to that of “nonmember observer state.”