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Activist to serve prison sentence for supporting Kurdish daily

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Well-known activist, writer and journalist Celaletttin Can will start serving a 15-month prison sentence on conviction of disseminating terrorist propaganda for acting as the symbolic editor-in-chief of a now-closed Kurdish newspaper, the Gazete Duvar news website reported.

Fifty-six journalists, lawyers and human rights activists had served as symbolic editors-in-chief between May and August 2016 in solidarity with now-shuttered Özgür Gündem newspaper.

Forty-nine of them were prosecuted, and the newspaper was closed by government decree in October 2016 after a failed coup that gave the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vast authority under a subsequent state of emergency.

Can was among 13 journalists who participated in the solidarity campaign who were convicted and sentenced to prison in April 2019.

Can, the spokesperson for the 78’ers initiative, told the Artı Gerçek news website that the he was notified of the final verdict on Aug. 20 by the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office and was ordered to surrender himself to the nearest penal institution within 10 days.

“On Monday, August 28, I will surrender to … the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office at the Çağlayan Courthouse. The initial procedures will be conducted there, followed by further processing at Metris Prison. And finally, my proceedings will be completed at Silivri Prison,” he added, using the old name of Marmara Prison in İstanbul.

Can also said that in the event his petitions concerning his right to probation and a reduction in sentence are not approved, he will serve three-quarters of his sentence, equivalent to 11 months, 25 days.

The 78’ers initiative announced in a written statement that they would issue press releases in 10 provinces, including İstanbul, Ankara and Diyarbakır, on Monday morning to protest Can’s sentence, using the slogan “Solidarity remains alive.”

“The attempt to punish this act … by attributing it to terrorist propaganda reveals the extent of lawlessness in our country. … Not implementing this penalty, which is not in line with the existing laws, to avoid leading to even more severe consequences for Celalettin Can, who is already grappling with serious health issues … would be morally and legally correct,” the 78’ers added.

Prominent human rights activist and lawyer Eren Keskin said the imprisonment of Can due to his support for a Kurdish daily violated the European Convention on Human Rights and added, “I’m sure the European Union is ‘concerned’ once more.”

Can was also among the group of “wise people” selected by the Turkish government in 2013 to contribute to the settlement of Turkey’s long-standing Kurdish issue, a term prevalent in Turkey’s public discourse referring to the demand for equal rights by the country’s Kurdish population and their struggle for recognition.

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