Letter: Persecution of Turkish journalists

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Sir: On Tuesday, 14 June, the editor, deputy editor and 11 other journalists from the daily paper Ozgur Gundem (Free Agenda) go on trial in Istanbul on charges relating to their coverage of the war in Kurdistan, in south-east Turkey. Another 14 are already standing trial in Diyarbakir, the main city of the Kurdish region.

For two years now, the Ozgur Gundem journalists have faced the most severe persecution of any in the world. Eight have been assassinated and two more are 'disappeared', feared dead. Eight more of the paper's workers have been killed.

Last December, the authorities arrested the entire staff of the paper - 150 people, many of whom were tortured. Nineteen are still in prison, including the editor, Gurbetelli Ersoz, who with four others is facing the charge of membership of an illegal organisation (which carries a maximum 15-year sentence).

The remaining journalists are charged with publishing 'propaganda' and giving help to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The paper has indeed published PKK material, but this is part of the proper reporting of the bitter war in the south-east of Turkey.

Turkey is a party to the CSCE's Copenhagen Declaration of June 1990 on the rights of minorities. Under the CSCE's Moscow Mechanism, six member states can agree to send a mission of experts to address a clearly defined question relating to the human dimension of the CSCE. It is time for Britain to initiate this process in relation to violations of the rights of Kurdish jounalists to 'the free expression of all their legitimate interests and aspirations' (Copenhagen Declaration, 1990).

Yours faithfully,

AVEBURY, HAROLD PINTER, ARTHUR MILLER, NOAM CHOMSKY, LOUIS BEGLEY, VERA BEAUDIN-SAEDPOUR, GERHARD RUISS, FRANCIS D'SOUZA, TONY BENN, GRAHAM SWIFT, ROBERT McCRUM, URSULA OWEN, JOHN SIMPSON, ADRIAN MITCHELL, BERNICE RUBENS, OLU OGUIBE

and 44 others

London, NW3

12 June

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