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Judge Exits Turkish Slaying Trial

November 6, 1997

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) _ The judge today withdrew from the trial of nine police officers charged in the 1996 beating death of a journalist, citing political pressure, according to a news report.

Judge Kamil Serif said he withdrew from the case because of intense pressure by some foreign and Turkish institutions and politicians, the Anatolia news agency reported. It did not identity them.

Human rights groups consider the case a test of Turkey’s commitment to press freedom.

Metin Goktepe, a 27-year-old reporter for a defunct leftist daily, was detained while covering the funerals of leftist militants. The officers are accused of beating him then leaving him to die in an Istanbul park. The trial was moved to the central city of Afyon, ostensibly for security reasons, but also to avoid publicity.

At the last hearing in October, the court released four of the police officers from prison, drawing protests from the human rights groups. The officers face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

In another prominent case, the Justice Ministry has started an amnesty process for Esber Yagmurdereli, a blind lawyer and human rights activist who is serving a 17-year prison term, Minister Oltan Sungurlu said today.

Yagmurdereli was first imprisoned in 1978 on charges of trying to overthrow the government. He was freed on parole in 1991, only to be arrested soon afterward on charges of spreading Kurdish separatist propaganda. He has rejected an amnesty, insisting he is innocent.

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