Euro Court Condemns Turkey Over Press Closures

STRASBOURG–France (Reuters)–The European Court of Human Rights condemned Turkey on Thursday over attacks on staff of the defunct Kurdish newspaper Ozgur Gundem–saying it failed in its duty to ensure freedom of expression.

The court awarded damages worth a total nine billion Turkish lira ($15,550) to the four plaintiffs – owners and executives of the newspaper which closed down in 1994 – as well as 5,000 pounds sterling ($7,862) for non-pecuniary damage to each of the four and 16,000 pounds ($25,160) for legal costs.

In a ruling released to the press–the court said the Turkish government "failed to comply with their positive obligation to protect the newspaper in the exercise of its freedom of expression."

Nine Ozgur Gundem journalists were killed by unknown assailants in the early 1990s and a mystery bomb attack ruined the paper’s offices and killed one person.

The plaintiffs had argued that journalists and distributors of the Turkish-language daily were subjected to a campaign of killings–disappearances–ill treatment–threats–seizure of newspaper issues and heavy fines.

The Ankara government argued that the newspaper was inciting violence as a propaganda tool for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). It said it had taken the appropriate steps to deal with the attacks on newspaper staff which it blamed on unidentified terrorists.

The court said Ankara had "failed to provide adequate or effective responses to the allegations that the attacks were part of a campaign supported or tolerated by the authorities."

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