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TWO SENTENCED FOR 'INSULTING TURKISHNESS' AS EUROPEAN COURT RULES AGAINST TURKEY

On 11 October 2007, an Istanbul criminal court sentenced Arat Dink, editor of the Armenian-Turkish magazine "Agos", and Sarkis Serkopyan, the magazine's licence owner, to one-year suspended prison terms. They were convicted under the notorious penal code Article 301 of "insult to Turkishness" for a 2006 report in which Dink's father, Hrant Dink, had referred to the mass killings and disappearances of Armenians in Turkey around 1915 as genocide.

Hrant Dink, himself the editor of "Agos" at the time of his fateful interview with Reuters, was murdered by a nationalist extremist six months later. In 2005 he had been sentenced in another Article 301 case to a six-month suspended term, according to the Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of International PEN. Even though newly elected President Abdullah Gül has suggested Article 301 could be amended, the WiPC says a score of writers and journalists are on trial under it.

On 27 September, IPS Communication Foundation (BIANET) reports that writer Umur Hoztali was fined about US$2,500 for an article suggesting that the public distrusted Turkey's police and judiciary. In another high-profile case, publisher Ragip Zarakolu was in court in early October at the twelfth hearing of a case against him for publishing "History Will Set us Free/Turkish-Armenian Conciliation" by Armenian George Jejian. The hearing was adjourned to 5 December.

A new IFEX member, the Initiative for Freedom of Expression (DSKG), reports on a criminal case under the "Statute on Crimes against Ataturk", referring to Mustafa "Ataturk" Kemal, who founded the modern Turkish republic. Professor Atilla Yayla has faced sanctions at Gazi University, DSKG says, and now criminal charges for criticising "Kemalism" from 1923 to 1945.

In two other freedom of speech cases, BIANET reports that the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled against Turkish prosecutions. Declaring it was normal to "doubt the neutrality and independence" of the State Security Courts, the ECHR ordered fines and compensation against Turkey in both cases.

In one case, the ECHR decreed that Erdal Tas, former editor of the now-closed "Yeni Gündem" newspaper, was not given a fair trial over charges that he had published statements by members of the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). In the second, the ECHR ruled that punishing Akin Birdal, former president of the Human Rights Association (IHD) and now MP for the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP), for a 1995 speech violated freedom of expression.

German PEN has announced that "Agos" will be awarded the Hemann Kesten medal 2007, which is endowed with 10,000 Euros (US$24,000) by the Hessia Ministry of Sciences and Arts. Hrant Dink's widow, Rakel Dink, is to accept the prize in Germany on 15 November, International PEN's "Day of the Imprisoned Writer."

Earlier, Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF) expressed outrage at reports that evidence in the investigation into Dink's murder had disappeared. "Evidence proving that the authorities ... knew of the plans to kill Dink has been deliberately ignored," RSF said. The next hearing is set for 11 February 2008.

Visit these links:
- International PEN: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/86981/
- DSKG: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/86998/
- BIANET on Dink: http://tinyurl.com/2z649a
- BIANET on ECHR: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/86774/
- RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=23893
(16 October 2007)

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