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Human rights association reviews dismal freedom of expression situation in first six months of 2007

(BIANET/IFEX) - The following is a 24 September 2007 BIANET press release:

IHD six-month report
"Crimes of Thought": 229 Years' Imprisonment in Six Months

Every six months, the Human Rights Association (IHD) publishes a report on human rights violations in Turkey. According to the report, in the first six months of 2007, 451 people were involved in 94 trials for exercising their right to freedom of expression. In addition, there were 88 investigations of 361 people for exercising the same right.

In the same time frame, 103 trials involving 368 people resulted in the sentencing of 193 people to a total of 229 years, 3 months and 15 days in prison and 7,981 YTL (approx. 4,600 Euros) in fines. The IHD noted that these statistics "prove that, compared to recent years past, there has been no improvement in the area of freedom of expression".

According to the association, 17 of the trials begun in this period were under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code ("degrading Turkishness, the Republic, the State or its institutions"), 22 trials under Article 215 ("praising crime and criminals"), four trials under Article 314, two trials under Article 216 ("inciting the people to hatred and hostility"), and two trials under Article 288 ("attempting to influence the judiciary"). There have been 20 trials under Article 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Law ("spreading the propaganda of a terrorist organisation"), two trials under the Law of Crimes Committed against Atatürk (the founder of the Turkish Republic), and one under Article 312 of the old Turkish Penal Code.

The first six months of 2007 also witnessed the conclusion of 25 trials under Article 301, 23 trials under Article 215, and 4 trials under Article 216.

The Human Rights Association protested the overturning of the acquittal of academics Prof. Dr. Ibrahim Kaboglu and Prof. Dr. Baskin Oran, who were on trial for a report on minority and cultural rights they prepared for the Prime Minister's Office. In the report, they suggested replacing the term "Turk" for citizens of the Turkish Republic with the term "citizen of Turkey", which would include all ethnic and religious groups in Turkey.

According to the association, the academics' case is similar to the legal persecution of writers such as Perihan Magden, Elif Safak and Hrant Dink.

The IHD warned that "Regarding the exercise of freedom of expression as a crime not only results in trials, but can also result in protests provoked by nationalist segments of the population, and lynching attempts." Reyhan Yalcindag, the president of the IHD, said, "Everyone knows how there was a build-up to Hrant Dink's murder - how, when he was in court for 'degrading Turkishness', his expressions of peace and brotherhood were twisted into something else."

The IHD also called attention to the fact that the "Özgür Gündem" newspaper has been closed four times this year.

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