Turkish court bans pro-Kurdish daily for month-editor

ISTANBUL, March 25 Sun Mar 25, 2012 9:41pm IST

ISTANBUL, March 25 (Reuters) - A Turkish court banned a pro-Kurdish newspaper for a month for spreading "terrorist propaganda" and police raided its offices in Istanbul to seize the Sunday edition, its editor said.

Ozgur Gundem editor Huseyin Aykol said the court, in its decision late on Saturday, cited the newspaper's reporting of Kurdish New Year celebrations from the Qandil mountains in northern Iraq as one example.

The Qandil mountains are the main base of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militants, who took up arms for Kurdish self-rule in 1984. Ankara, the European Union and United States all classify the PKK as a terrorist organisation.

"We have suffered such a huge number of arrests and such intense pressure on us over the year. We don't want to get used to this," Aykol told Reuters.

In December, police detained several of the newspaper's journalists and carted away computers as part of a crackdown on Kurdish media outlets.

Two years ago, a Turkish court sentenced the editor of a Kurdish newspaper to 21 years in prison for printing what it called Kurdish terrorist propaganda.

Aykol said a total 109 publishers and journalists from Dicle news agency, Firat news agency, Azadiya Welat and Ozgur Gundem were currently detained. Most are pending trial but some have been convicted.

Ozgur Gundem, which prints in Turkish to raise awareness of the Kurdish issue, was first published in 1992 but was banned two years later and only began publishing again last April.

Turkey and Kurdish militants are fighting 27-year-old war in the mountains of southeast Turkey and northern Iraq. The Turkish government refuses to negotiate directly with the PKK.

More than 40,000 militants, soldiers and civilians have been killed in the fighting since the PKK took up arms. Hundreds have also been arrested on charges of secretly supporting the PKK.

Some 700 more people were arrested, and one policeman and a Kurdish activist were killed during Kurdish New Year celebrations that turned into riots this week as police tried to stop a show of popular strength by Kurds across the country. (Writing by Simon Cameron-Moore; Editing by Karolina Tagaris)

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