(IPA/IFEX) - The following is a joint IPA/International PEN press release:
Publisher Ragip Zarakolu faces a 6-year prison sentence
International PEN, the International Publishers' Association (IPA), and other international NGOs, including ARTICLE 19 and Human Rights Watch (HRW), were in Turkey to observe the trial of publisher Ragip Zarakolu on 22 November 2005.
Ragip Zarakolu, co-founder and owner of Belge Publishing, is charged in Istanbul with "insulting and undermining the State" under Article 301 of the new Penal Code. These charges stem from the publication of a book by Dora Sakayan entitled: "Garabet Hacheryan's Izmir Journal: An Armenian Doctor's Experiences" and George Jerjian's Book entitled: "History Will Free Us All - Turkish-Armenian Conciliation".
In the Jerjian case, a new experts' committee was appointed to assess whether the book is insulting or not. In the Sakayan case, the prosecutor made his final statement, demanding a six-year prison sentence for Ragip Zarakolu for having "insulted the Army" and "Turkishness" by publishing this book.
The next hearing is due to take place on 15 February 2006. Lars Grahn, Chairman of the IPA Freedom to Publish Committee, declares: "As the EU membership negotiations started on 3 October 2005, we sincerely hope that Ragip Zarakolu will be acquitted in the Sakayan case. For us, there is no other alternative."
Ragip Zarakolu has been subjected to a series of time-consuming and expensive court hearings. This is in itself a form of harassment and punishment for daring to produce works that touch on sensitive issues.
There are currently an estimated 60 writers, publishers and journalists in Turkey under judicial process. Eugene Schoulgin, Member of the Board of International PEN says: "The new Article 301 of the Penal Code is a simple cut and paste of the old Article 159. World famous author Orhan Pamuk and many others are charged under new Article 301. Some, like journalist Hrant Dink, have already been condemned. These trials symbolise the sustainability of freedom of expression problems in Turkey. It is time for these freedom of expression trials to come to an end."
More about PEN and IPA:
IPA, established in Paris in 1896, represents the publishing industry worldwide through 78 national, regional and specialised publishers associations in 66 countries. International PEN was founded in 1921 in London. It is represented worldwide through 138 centres in over 100 countries. Both organisations are accredited NGOs enjoying consultative status to the United Nations and seek to promote and defend the fundamental freedoms to publish, to read and to write, defending the rights of authors and publishers to create and distribute intellectual works in complete freedom.