April 8, 2015 / 11:19 AM / 2 years ago

Turkish prosecutor calls for Dutch journalist's acquittal in terrorism propaganda trial

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (Reuters) - A Turkish prosecutor made a surprise call on Wednesday for the acquittal of a Dutch journalist charged with disseminating "terrorist propaganda", a case which had fueled concern about press freedom in EU candidate Turkey.

Freelance journalist Frederike Geerdink, based in the mainly Kurdish southeastern city of Diyarbakir, was accused of posting messages on social media in favor of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Her brief detention in January and police raids on her home sparked a protest from Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders, who was visiting Turkey at the time, and led to condemnation from rights groups.

The prosecutor told the Diyarbakir court that Geerdinke's statements on Twitter should be viewed as part of her freedom of expression, and that publishing of her articles on her Facebook page should be seen as journalistic activity.

"No evidence has been found on the suspect carrying or hanging the pictures, signs or logo of the terrorist organization or wearing a uniform that carries those," the prosecutor said.

Geerdink has reported from Turkey since 2006 and focuses mainly on Kurdish issues, a highly sensitive topic after a decades-long insurgency by PKK militants demanding greater autonomy, in which an estimated 40,000 people have been killed.

Kurdish and Turkish journalists are frequently pursued by prosecutors under sweeping anti-terrorism laws, but Geerdink's indictment was a rare instance of a foreign journalist facing criminal charges.

Geerdink, who denied the charges, faced up to five years in prison had she been found guilty.

Turkey languishes near the bottom of international tables measuring press freedom. Access to Twitter and YouTube was briefly blocked this week after a court ordered the removal of images of a prosecutor held at gunpoint by far-left militants, a move condemned as unnecessarily draconian by government critics.

"To me, those organizations which opened up their pages and screens to these terrorists have become partners in the martyring of our prosecutor," President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday. Geerdink's trial was postponed to Monday for a final ruling.

Writing by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Raissa Kasolowsky

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