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Prolongation of publisher's costly "insult" trial punishment for his work, says IPA

(IPA/IFEX) - The following is an IPA press release:

Publishers Deplore Continued Harassment as Zarakolu Trial Drags On

Geneva, 12 December 2007 - Ragip Zarakolu, co-founder and owner of Belge Publishing, is charged in Istanbul with "insulting the State" (Article 301 TPC) and insulting the "memory of the founder of the Republic, Atatürk" (Law 5816). This case was initiated against him in December 2004 for the publication of George Jerjian's book entitled: "The truth will set us free/Armenians and Turks reconciled". The first hearing of this case took place in Istanbul on 16 March 2005. Zarakolu appeared again in court on 4 December 2007. Following numerous postponements, this case was yet again postponed to 31 January 2008. The charges carry a possible jail sentence of up to seven and a half years.

Bjorn Smith-Simonsen, Chairman of the IPA Freedom to Publish Committee, declares: "Ragip Zarakolu has been subjected to a series of long, time-consuming and expensive court hearings. The case was postponed at least seven times since the first hearing in March 2005. The conduct of the trial in itself has begun to take the form of harassment and punishment against the defendant for daring to produce works that touch on sensitive issues".

Ana Maria Cabanellas, IPA President, adds: "Turkish legislation (Art. 301 TPC, Law 5816, etc.) must be amended to meet international standards, including the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union signed in Strasbourg today. Above all, it is this kind of trial practice which will have to be changed in Turkey. In the meantime, IPA continues to demand that publisher Zarakolu be acquitted and urges the judiciary to complete this trial swiftly, efficiently and fairly".

The charges brought against Ragip Zarakolu are in direct conflict with his right to freedom of expression - and freedom to publish - as guaranteed by Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Turkey is a party. These charges are also in breach of Article 11 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. Article 11 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, signed in Strasbourg today by Hans-Gert Pöttering, European Parliament President, José Manuel Barroso, Commission President, and José Sócrates, Portuguese Prime Minister and President-in-office of the EU Council, reads as follows:

"1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.

2. The freedom and pluralism of the media shall be respected."

There are currently an estimated 60 writers, publishers and journalists under judicial process in Turkey for practicing their right to freedom of expression.

The International Publishers Association (IPA) is the global non-governmental organisation representing all aspects of book and journal publishing worldwide. Established in 1896, IPA's mission is to promote and protect publishing and to raise awareness of publishing as a force for cultural and political advancement worldwide. IPA is an industry association with a human rights mandate. IPA currently has 65 member associations in 53 countries.

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