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Anthropology student Yektan Turkyilmaz released

(WiPC/IFEX) - Yektan Turkyilmaz, a PhD student of cultural anthropology held in Armenia since mid-June, was released from prison with a suspended sentence on 16 August 2005. The Malatia-Sebastia district court in the capital, Yerevan, convicted Turkyilmaz on two counts of attempting to take antique books out of the country. According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), the decision not to imprison him was made at the request of state prosecutors who cited Turkyilmaz's partial acknowledgement of guilt and his cooperation with investigators. The prosecutor also said Turkyilmaz's youth was a reason for leniency. He is required to stay in Armenia until 30 August and will from then on be free to travel to and from the country.

Turkyilmaz, aged 33, was arrested at Yerevan Airport on 17 June as he attempted to leave Armenia. During his visit, he had purchased around 100 books, from the 17th to 20th centuries, mainly from second-hand book shops. Turkyilmaz has been collecting such books for his own research as well as to build up a library of Armenian books that would otherwise be lost. Turkyilmaz claims that he was unaware of legislation that bans the removal from the country of books more than 50 years old without the Ministry of Culture's approval. RFE/RL reports that this new law, which came into force in January, deals with the smuggling of items of "cultural-historical value", as well as narcotics and weapons.

A Duke University representative who was present at the trial welcomed the news that Turkyilmaz, who will be studying on a scholarship at the university later this year, will be able to continue his studies on Armenian issues. Duke University had been among a number of academic institutions world-wide that had questioned the arrest and lengthy pre-trial detention of Turkyilmaz, and in particular the fact that he was convicted under a law that provided up to eight years in prison. Concerns were heightened by reports that the focus of the interrogation of Turkyilmaz had been on his academic studies and political beliefs. Turkyilmaz told the press he was delighted at being released and looks forward to continuing his studies.

For the full RFE/RL report and details of academic institutions' campaigns on his behalf, visit
http://www.ssrc.org/Threats-to-Intellectual-Freedom/TurkyilmazUPDATE.page
Also see the website dedicated to his case at http://www.yektan.org

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