Journalist Merdan Yanardağ sentenced and released from prison

Turkish journalist Merdan Yanardağ was sentenced to prison on the first day of the trial for his comments on Abdullah Öcalan in Istanbul. The court ordered his release at the same time.

Turkish journalist Merdan Yanardağ was sentenced to two and a half years imprisonment on the first day of the trial for his statements on the solitary confinement of Abdullah Öcalan in Istanbul. The 30th Heavy Penal Court convicted the editor-in-chief of the opposition broadcaster TELE1 of "propaganda for an organisation" and at the same time ordered his release from prison.

In front of the courthouse in Çağlayan, demonstrators demanded Yanardağ's release before the start of the trial. The hearing began one and a half hours late. Yanardağ said in court that the trial against him was aimed at abolishing press freedom and creating a repressive atmosphere in Turkey: "I have been arrested to threaten the independent media and intimidate society." The journalist said he has been a journalist for 38 years and the real reason for the charges against him is the debate about the isolation of Abdullah Öcalan on the prison island of Imrali.

"Does a separate criminal law apply on Imrali? Since when is it a criminal offence to demand the application of the law of execution? Abdullah Öcalan should be able to meet his family and we should know what he has to say," said the defendant.

While the lawyers pleaded for acquittal, the prosecution asked for continued detention. The court justified the journalist's conviction by saying that the statement "Because Öcalan is a person who reads a lot and sees politics correctly" does not fall under the freedom of the press and freedom of expression.

Merdan Yanardağ, who is also the owner of TELE1, had spoken with studio guests on 25 June in the programme "4 Questions 4 Answers" about the prison conditions in Turkey, especially of political prisoners. He asked why Abdullah Öcalan, the founder of the PKK, who was abducted to Turkey 24 years ago in violation of international law, is still being held incommunicado on the prison island of Imrali. Öcalan is being held as a hostage, while at the same time he is being negotiated with, Yanardağ said, pointing out the strict ban on contact even with his lawyers and family members: "Abdullah Öcalan is not a person to be taken lightly. He has almost become a philosopher in prison because he does nothing but read. He is an extremely intelligent person who reads politics correctly, sees it correctly and analyses it correctly."

A few hours after these remarks, Yanardağ was arrested by the anti-terror police while still in the broadcasting building in Istanbul and taken to Europe's largest prison complex, Silivri, west of Istanbul.