DIYARBAKIR (AFP)–A Turkish court Thursday sentenced the former editor of a Kurdish-language newspaper to 166 years and six months in jail on charges of spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization.
The court ruled that Vedat Kursun had “disseminated the propaganda of a terrorist organization” on 103 different occasions by publishing news stories and photographs about the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the Azadiya Welat (Independence of Homeland) daily.
Kursun, who was present in the court in Diyarbakır, was also found guilty of “committing a crime on behalf of the terrorist organization.”
Defense lawyers said they would appeal the sentence.
In his defense, Kursun, who has been in custody since February 2008, had told the court that his decision to publish the stories and pictures in the paper, of which he was editor-in-chief, was not based on criminal intent.
“Our coverage is not different to other newspapers in this country. We always aimed to serve peace. We never published stories that would have incited the public to violence,” he said.
Founded in 1994 as a weekly that turned into a daily in 2006, Azadiya Welat has often been the target of judicial action, with prosecutors alleging that it is a mouthpiece for the PKK, which has been under attack from the Turkish military for 25 years.
In February, Ozan Kilinc, who was the paper’s editor-in-chief at the time, was sentenced to for 21 years in jail, also for spreading terrorist propaganda.
His conviction was condemned by the International Press Institute as an “unacceptable” move that amounted to “government censorship of the media.”
The PKK–listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union–took up arms in 1984 in Southeast Turkey, sparking a conflict that has claimed some 45,000 lives.