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Court Refuses to Drop Charges Against American Journalist

October 12, 1995

ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP) _ A court today refused to drop charges against an American journalist accused of inciting racial hatred among the country’s Turkish and Kurdish populations.

If convicted, Reuter correspondent Aliza Marcus of Westfield, N.J., could face a maximum three-year sentence for an article that appeared in a pro-Kurdish daily, Ozgur Ulke, last November.

She is the first foreign journalist prosecuted for her writings, although hundreds of Turkish journalists have been brought to trial.

Marcus, 33, told the State Security Court the article, ``The Army’s Target: Kurdish Villages,″ was based on information she gathered during a visit to Diyarbakir in southeastern Turkey.

However, she said the article was written by Reuter editors and transmitted from the news agency’s headquarters in London to subscribers worldwide.

The prosecution did not cite any specific point in the article. It included the assertion that ``forcibly evacuating and even torching villages in southeastern Turkey is now a central part of the military’s 10-year battle against Kurdish rebels.″

The military has been fighting Kurdish guerrillas waging war for autonomy in southeastern Turkey. More than 20,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

The defense said legal action was initiated in July, more than six months after the article was published, and asked that the case be dropped. Under Turkey’s press law, no trial can start more than six months after an alleged infraction, defense attorney Cetin Ozek said.

The court denied the request on grounds that legal action had started when the editor of Ozgur Ulke was interrogated shortly after the article was published.

The hearing was adjourned to Nov. 9 to allow the defense to submit a copy of Marcus’ U.S. passport and ask Reuters’ Istanbul bureau to identify the person or persons who wrote the original article in English. Ozgur Ulke published a Turkish translation.

The court also ruled that Marcus was not required to appear at the next hearing.

The State Security Court, a semi-military tribunal, is a legislative body dealing with activities aimed against the state.

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