Petition for the Repeal of Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code

*** To read Alison Flood’s article, ‘Will Frankfurt open Turkey’s books?’, published 16 October 2008, please click here. ***


***UPDATE: 30 April 2008: English PEN today gave a qualified welcome to amendments to Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, the repeal of which the organisation has long campaigned for. However, the changes to the law did not go far enough, and English PEN still considers the article to be a threat to the right to freedom of expression. For more information click here. ***


***UPDATE: On 3 October 2007, Turkish President Abdullah Gul called for Article 301 of the Penal Code to be reviewed, citing Turkey’s international reputation as a reason for such a review. The Turkish Daily News, however, suggests that the revision may be only a change from the charge of insulting ‘Turkishness’ to insulting the ‘Turkish Nation’. PEN will wait to see whether meaningful amendments are adopted.***


For immediate release: Wednesday 18 April 2007





422 leading writers and other supporters of the English Centre of PEN have signed a petition protesting the ongoing prosecution of Turkish writers, publishers and journalists under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code. Signatories, calling for the abolition of Article 301, include Joan Bakewell, William Boyd, Jung Chang, Michael Frayn, Ian McEwan, Harold Pinter, Philip Pullman, Richard Eyre, Will Self, Sir Alan Ayckbourn, Ali Smith, Joanna Trollope and Marina Warner.


The petition expresses deep concern that the prosecutions, under Article 301 and other similar articles of the Turkish Penal Code, not only attack freedom of expression in Turkey but also put the defendants at severe risk of physical attack by nationalist extremists. This position is held by PEN in light of the 19 January assassination of the respected Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, who had previously been convicted under Article 301 and thereby branded an enemy of the State.


The petition will be delivered to the Turkish Embassy in London tomorrow, 19 March, exactly 3 months since Dink’s murder.


Article 301(1) states that ‘A person who explicitly insults being a Turk, the Republic or Turkish Grand National Assembly, shall be subject to a penalty of imprisonment for a term of six months to three years’. It is reported that around 20 cases under Article 301 are currently ongoing in Turkey, with a further 10 under appeal. Of these, PEN identifies some 15 as relating to writers, journalists and publishers.  The effect of such prosecutions is to intimidate those who express their opinions freely and to mark them as targets for nationalist violence.


‘In PEN’s view, all 301 prosecutions should be dropped until the Penal Code can be reviewed and this deeply divisive article repealed,’ said Jonathan Heawood, Director of English PEN.


Hrant Dink’s own son, Arat Dink, and two co-defendants named Serkis Seropyan and Aydin Engin, continue to stand trial under Article 301 charges. They are all accused on the basis of a July 2006 piece published in the Agos newspaper that Hrant Dink edited. The piece included statements by Dink about the Armenian genocide.  PEN had hoped that Dink’s tragic death, and the widespread calls for repeal of Article 301 from Turkish citizens, would have led to the closure of these proceedings. It is deeply disappointed that the case continues, with Arat and his colleagues facing their next hearing on 14 June.


The publisher Ragip Zarakolu, like his friend Hrant Dink a prominent Turkish intellectual and an Honorary Member of English PEN, also faces another court hearing on 3 May relating to longstanding Article 301 charges.  While police protection against extremists has been offered to a number of Turkish writers, journalists, academics and publishers, the most important protection that the Turkish Government could provide would be to order the immediate suspension of all prosecutions under Article 301 and other similarly dangerous articles of the Penal Code.


A full copy of the petition and its signatories can be found here.

Originally posted with the url:

About English PEN staff

This content is published by the English PEN staff.

View all posts by English PEN staff →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *