Turkish court acquits novelist Asli Erdogan accused of Kurdish PKK militant ties

Turkish court acquits novelist Asli Erdogan accused of Kurdish PKK militant ties

2020/02/14 | 22:25 - Source: Iraq News

(ThisDay | Iraq News Now)- Turkish author Asli Erdogan, lives in exile in Germany, 2019.

Photo: DW.com

ISTANBUL,— An Istanbul court acquitted novelist Asli Erdogan on Friday of charges of belonging to a “terrorist” group, in one of a series of cases that have fueled concern among European Union states and rights groups about a deterioration of media freedom in Turkey.

Erdogan, who is now living in self-imposed exile in Europe, was one of some two dozen staff from the pro-Kurdish Ozgur Gundem newspaper who were detained in 2016 as part of an investigation into their alleged links to Kurdish militants.

Erdogan is no relation to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan — the name is common in Turkey.

The court also acquitted her of “undermining national unity”, while charges of spreading terrorist propaganda were dropped.

Two of her colleagues, Necmiye Alpay and Bilge Aykut, were acquitted of the three charges, while the cases of six others were separated.

The court did not set a date for the next session of their trial.

Erdogan had faced a sentence of up to nine years and four months in jail if found guilty, although she has lived largely abroad since a travel ban was lifted against her in 2017.

She is not related to President Tayyip Erdogan.

At the time of her arrest, a court closed the newspaper on grounds of spreading propaganda of the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Karin Deutsch Karlekar, director of Free Expression at Risk Programs at PEN America, welcomed the acquittal.

“We are hugely relieved that novelist Asli Erdogan and writer and translator Necmiye Alpay have finally been acquitted on terrorism charges, after more than four years of judicial harassment,” she said in a statement.

“However, we continue to call for charges against their colleagues in the Ozgur Gundem case to be dropped, and for all those wrongfully imprisoned in Turkey as a result of their peaceful free expression to be released.”

Ozgur Gundem was among more than 130 media outlets which Turkey closed during a state of emergency declared following a failed military coup in July 2016 in a crackdown whose scale alarmed Ankara’s Western allies and rights groups.

Ozgur Gundem had focused on the PKK conflict in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast and had faced many investigations, fines and the arrest of correspondents in the years before it was closed.

The PKK took up arms in 1984 against the Turkish state, which still denies the constitutional existence of Kurds, to push for greater autonomy in Turkish Kurdistan (Bakur) for the Kurdish minority who make up around 22.5 million of the country’s 79-million population.

More than 40,000 Turkish soldiers and Kurdish rebels, have been killed in the conflict.

A large Kurdish community in Turkey and worldwide openly sympathise with PKK rebels and Abdullah Ocalan, who founded the PKK group in 1974 and currently serving a life sentence in Turkey, has a high symbolic value for most Kurds in Turkey and worldwide according to observers.

The PKK is considered to be a terror group by Ankara, the United States and the European Union.

In 2008 EU court ruling overturned a decision to place the Kurdish rebel group PKK and its political wing on the European Union’s terror list.

However, Russia, Switzerland, India, China and the United Nations do not list the PKK as a terrorist organization.

Read more about Freedom of Expression and Journalism in Turkey

Copyright © 2020, respective author or news agency, Ekurd.net | Reuters

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