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Veteran journalist Cemal convicted of terror propaganda in series on PKK

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Veteran Turkish journalist Hasan Cemal has been given a suspended sentence of three months, 22 days by a Turkish court for a series of articles documenting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) withdrawal from Turkey as part of an agreement with the government, according to a report by the Cumhuriyet daily on Tuesday.

Cemal, whose articles were published under the heading “Withdrawal Diary” on the T24 independent news website in 2013, had faced up to 13 years under Turkish terror and criminal law in a case opened against him four years later. He was acquitted in this trial, but the İstanbul 2nd Regional Court of Justice, a superior court, overturned the acquittal in November 2017 and ruled for a retrial.

Cemal reappeared in court on Tuesday and was given a suspended sentence of three months, 22 days on charges of disseminating the propaganda of a terrorist organization.

“As a journalist, what I wrote at that time was how the road to the mountains [for PKK militants] opened up, in the search for an answer to the question of how it would not be closed. This was all journalism,” Cemal told the court at an earlier hearing.

“To bring about a prison case today about what I wrote in 2013 was to punish journalism. I defend peace rather than war, terror and violence. I will continue defending peace. I ask that I be found innocent.”

In November 2017, Cemal had also been given a suspended sentence of 15 months for “propaganda for an armed terrorist organization” and a TL 6,000 ($1,500) fine for “publishing a terror organization statement” in his other columns.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) show that 245 journalists and media workers were in jail as of March 26, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 189 were under arrest pending trial while only 56 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 140 journalists who are living in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

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