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Top Turkish journalists face jail for "insulting" judiciary

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Ankara (dpa) - Five prominent Turkish newspaper columnists face imprisonment with prosecutors in Istanbul accusing the five of insulting the judiciary in a development that is bound to upset Turkey's relationship with the European Union.

The journalists are to be tried under Article 301 of the penal code that criminalizes "insults to state organs", a law that the E.U. has said is too vague and liable to be interpreted too strictly by Turkey's conservative judiciary.

In September the five all criticized a court injunction to stop the holding of a conference by Turkish historians into claims that Armenians living in Ottoman Turkey were subjected to a genocide in 1915.

The conference went ahead after a loophole was found in the injunction but not before Turkey was roundly condemned for failing to allow a free debate on what is still a very contentious issue in Turkey.

The writers charged are Hasan Cemal, Ismet Berkan, Murat Belge, Haluk Sahin and Erol Katircioglu. They face between six months and 10 years imprisonment if found guilty, Hurriyet newspaper reported on Saturday.

Article 301 has been used to charge a number of prominent intellectuals and journalists including best-selling author Orhan Pamuk while the editor of a Turkish-Armenian newspaper, Hrant Dink, was recently given a suspended jail sentence under the laws.

Another journalist, Burak Bekdil of the English-language Turkish Daily News, has also been given a suspended sentence for a satirical article criticizing the judiciary.

Copyright 2005 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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