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DINK'S ANNIVERSARY A REMINDER THAT COUNTRY MUST REFORM PENAL CODE, SAY IFEX MEMBERS

IFEX members in Turkey and around the world commemorated the first anniversary of the murder of Armenian editor Hrant Dink on 19 January, while reminding the Turkish government that true justice for Dink must include urgent reform to its penal code.

Ten thousand people, including Dink's widow Rakel and writer and peace activist Arundhati Roy, gathered in front of the "Agos" newspaper office in Istanbul at 3 pm, the place and time where Dink was gunned down last year allegedly by a Turkish nationalist, report IFEX members in Turkey IPS Communication Foundation (BIANET) and the Initiative for Freedom of Expression (Antenna-TR). The protesters placed red carnations on the spot where he was killed and demanded justice in the case.

Although a murder trial started last year, it is taking place behind closed doors and none of the 19 suspects have been charged.

Dink had tried to encourage reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia. But months before his death he was prosecuted under Article 301 of Turkey's penal code for "insulting Turkishness" and given a six-month suspended sentence for describing a century-old mass killing of Armenians as "genocide" in the Turkish-Armenian newspaper "Agos". His high profile trial and conviction under Article 301 branded him a traitor and made him a target for extremists, say IFEX members.

"Writers, journalists and publishers continue to face charges under 301 and other similarly divisive articles, receiving frequent threats of violence as a result," wrote ARTICLE 19, Index on Censorship and English PEN in a joint letter to "The Times".

IFEX members believe that true justice for Dink must include the urgent abolition of Article 301 and are "dismayed" at how little has changed since his death. Rakel Dink, addressing the crowd in front of "Agos", pointed out that if Dink were still alive, he would actually be in jail now. Dink's son, Arat, and the newspaper's owner were given suspended sentences under Article 301 in October.

Over the coming weeks, the Turkish parliament will discuss amendments to 301, but IFEX members believe they are likely to prove inadequate - although "insulting Turkishness" may be removed, "denigration of the Turkish nation" will still be considered a criminal offence carrying severe penalties.

The International Publishers Association (IPA), who has been leading an international campaign for the repeal of Article 301 and has been in Turkey along with International PEN on a fact-finding mission, calls the changes "cosmetic" and "likely to lead to more trials of publishers and writers."

IFEX members are calling on the EU, in its negotiations with Turkey, to ensure Article 301 is repealed and not just amended, and that no one else is killed or persecuted solely for expressing their opinions.

The website of "Hrant Için, Adalet Için" ("For Hrant, For Justice") campaign, run by a group of Turkish organisations, gives information on the events held for Dink in Turkey and abroad. See: http://www.hranticinadaleticin.com

Visit these links:
- BIANET: http://tinyurl.com/3c49xn
- Rakel Dink's address on Antenna-TR: http://tinyurl.com/2s6vks
- ARTICLE 19, Index and English PEN letter in "The Times": http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/90151/
- IPA: http://tinyurl.com/2l5n9n
- International PEN: http://tinyurl.com/34gk62
- International Press Institute: http://tinyurl.com/2rhtog
(Image courtesy of BIANET)

(22 January 2008)

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