RSF Turkey representative, two others acquitted over charges of producing PKK 'terror propaganda'

RSF Turkey representative, two others acquitted over charges of producing PKK 'terror propaganda'
The verdict was hailed by Reporters Without Borders chief Christophe Deloire as a 'great victory for justice and press freedom'.
2 min read
17 July, 2019
The three were accused of producing propaganda for the PKK [AFP]
A Turkish court on Wednesday acquitted the Turkey representative for Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and two others earlier accused of producing "terrorist propaganda".

Spectators in the courtroom erupted into applause after RSF representative Erol Onderoglu, rights activist Sebnem Korur Financi and journalist Ahmet Nesin were acquitted, AFP reported.

Only Financi was present at the hearing, while Onderoglu and Nesin were abroad.

The three were accused of producing "terror propaganda" for the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), an outlawed Kurdish militia Turkey considers a terrorist organisation, after guest editing Ozgur Gundem, a pro-Kurdish Turkish newspaper.

The Istanbul-based daily was often accused of making propaganda for the PKK through its reporting on the ongoing conflict between the militia and the Turkish military and was shuttered during a sweeping crackdown on oppositional media three years ago.

The newspaper was guest-edited by a series of pro-Kurdish journalists and activists after the arrest of several of its editors that year.

Onderoglu, Nesin and Financi had risked 14 years in jail before being acquitted.

The case is one of many to have triggered international alarm over press freedom in Turkey, where activists say the climate for media freedom has significantly deteriorated under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkey is the world's leading jailer of journalists, with around 140 journalists currently behind bars.

RSF ranks Turkey 157th out of 180 countries for press freedom.

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.

"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.

After the acquittal, Fincanci told AFP that she was "very surprised".

"I don't know how to react! Unfortunately we spent an unnecessary amount of time in jail, it's a shame," she said.

"It was the only decision possible, but there should not have been a trial in the first place."

The three defendants were jailed for a short time in 2016 and can now apply for compensation.

RSF chief Christophe Deloire said on Twitter that the verdict was a "great victory for justice and press freedom, both of which are violated on a daily basis... It represents a huge hope for all the journalists who remain arbitrarily detained".

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