The editor-in-chief of Turkey’s TELE1 TV channel Merdan Yanardağ has been sentenced to two years and six months imprisonment, based on his portrayal of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan, which the court considered too sympathetic, it said in the explanatory statement of the court ruling.
Yanardağ’s “efforts to make Abdullah Öcalan and the terrorist organisation he leads appear sympathetic” were aimed at convincing audiences that the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) was a political prisoner, the court said.
The statement went on to say that Yanardağ had “spoken with praise of Öcalan’s actions, whose politics were based on murdering people without care for babies or civilians”.
The comments that sparked the backlash against Yanardağ and kick-started the lightning-fast legal action against him in June are as follows:
“Abdullah Öcalan is more than 70 years old, and it must be acknowledged that we are talking about a man who has been behind bars for a very long time, 25 years with no breaks, a man held in isolation. He is the longest serving political prisoner in Turkey. If normal laws on the execution of sentences applied, he would be released. He’d be in house arrest…
“The isolation applied to Abdullah Öcalan has no basis in the law. It must be lifted. We do not see or hear him, we cannot debate with him, we do not know if he is watching or not. But the man is a hostage, unable to see even his family or lawyers. How can such a sentence arrangement even exist?
“But you’re not allowing any of this, because Abdullah Öcalan is not a man to be taken lightly. He reads a lot. He has practically turned into a philosopher in prison, because he has nothing to do but read. He is a man of utmost intelligence, who can read politics correctly and analyses is correctly.”
Yanardağ argued in his defence that his comments had been cherry-picked and taken out of context. He said his remarks were a critique of comments by a member of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) MP Galip Ensarioğlu.
“My comments were aimed at exposing the hypocrisy of the AKP”, Yanardağ said in a broadcast after the start of the court case.