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Turkish trial of journalists raises human rights concerns

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Mayor, lawyers also charged

Around 600 more people, including city mayors, lawyers, political activists, and more journalists, are charged in relation to another probe targeting the civilian wing of the Kurdish separatist rebel group, the Kurdistan Workers Party.

Last month, a prominent publisher and free speech activist, Ragip Zarakolu, and an Istanbul-based political science professor were among those arrested.

According to Emma Sinclair-Webb, Turkey researcher for Human Rights Watch, the cases expose serious shortcomings in the Turkish judicial system.

“The [anti-terrorism] laws themselves are very widely and vaguely drawn, and it’s very easy to find yourself as a suspect with these very general definitions of terrorism,” she says.

Long pre-trial detention, broad police powers, and a tendency to launch cases on meager evidence mean that “there are real, real problems in Turkey for the rights of defendants,” she adds. “With laws as they currently stand, and with a police-dominated approach, the potential is there to have witch hunts against your political opponents.”

It was the arrest of two journalists in today’s trial that heightened fears among Turkey’s secular opposition and affiliated media that they are being targeted by the government.

Nedim Sener, a reporter for the daily Milliyet newspaper, was last year named a World Press Freedom Hero by the International Press Institute. Like Mr. Sik, he had previously fought to expose the activities of the criminal conspiracy in which both are now implicated.

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