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Publisher of controversial history book convicted on one charge, acquitted on another

(BIANET/IFEX) - On 17 June 2008, the Istanbul 2nd Court of First Instance ruled on the case of Ragip Zarakolu, the owner of Belge Publishing. Zarakolu was on trial for "denigrating the State and the Republic" and "insulting Atatürk's memory", for publishing George Jerjian's book, entitled "History Will Set Us Free".

Zarakolu was convicted of the first charge and acquitted of the other ("insulting Atatürk").

Although the charge of "denigrating the State and the Republic" was technically filed under article 159 of the old Penal Code, there is no question that Zarakolu was actually sentenced under article 301 of the newer Turkish Penal Code. According to a recent revision of article 301, the court was required to ask for the permission of the Justice Minister before issuing the sentence. The court evaded this obligation by filing the charge under article 159 of the old Penal Code.

Considering his "good behavior", the court first reduced Zarakolu's sentence from six months to five, and then converted the prison sentence to a fine.

Had Zarakolu been found guilty of the charge of "insulting Atatürk", he would have been sentenced to 7.5 years in prison.

Zarakolu told BIANET that his legal defence was planning to appeal the sentence, adding that, as a matter of principle, he was opposed to paying the fine.

Various individuals were present at the sentencing to show their support for Zarakolu, including the president of the Imprisoned Writers Committee of the Turkish branch of International PEN, Halil Ibrahim Özcan.

Updates the Zarakolu case arising from George Jerjian's book:

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