Turkey Criticized by Europe’s Rights Court over Treatment of Journalist

STRASBOURG (AFP)–Turkey was criticized by the European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday over its treatment of a journalist who reviewed books about the sensitive Kurdish southeast of the country.

One of the books reviewed by Attila Halis in January 1994 was written by convicted Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan–who for many years was Turkey’s most wanted man. Ocalan was captured by Turkish undercover agents in Kenya in 1999–brought back to Turkey–and sentenced to death. His sentence was later changed to life in prison.

Rebels from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) have been held responsible by Ankara for a 15-year civil conflict that claimed more than 30,000 lives in southeast Turkey.

Halis was given a one-year jail sentence and a heavy fine in March 1995 for disseminating propaganda after a trial presided over by a Turkish military judge.

After losing an appeal–Halis went on the run–but the Turkish police caught up with him in March 2002. His sentence was finally suspended in July the same year.

The European court declared that Ankara had violated the European Convention on Human Rights in two areas: the right to freedom of expression and the right to a free and fair trial.

"The applicants conviction was disproportionate to the aims pursued and–accordingly–not necessary in a democratic society," the court declared.

The article was never actually published–as the January 2–1994 edition of the paper–Ozgur Gundem–was seized before it was distributed.

At a historic summit in Brussels in December–Turkey was invited by the European Union to begin membership talks in October; however–the country was advised that it must ensure that recent legislation adopted to improve human rights was applied at all levels.

The president of the European Court of Human Rights Luzius Wildhaber recently declared that Turkey’s once widely faulted legal practices were approaching European standards.

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