English PEN is seriously concerned to learn of the recent sentencing of Arat Dink and Sarkis Serkopyan under the notorious Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code. These convictions are particularly shocking in light of the fact that they involve the son and close colleague of Hrant Dink, the Turkish-Armenian editor of Agos who was brutally murdered in January 2007 after being branded a ‘traitor’ by a similar prosecution involving charges under Article 301.
On 11 October 2007, Arat Dink, now the editor of Agos, and the magazine’s licence owner, Sarkis Serkopyan were both sentenced to one year suspended prison terms by the Sisli Criminal Court in Istanbul. They were convicted under Article 301 on charges of ‘insult to Turkishness’. English PEN protests these convictions which are in breach of the right to freedom of expression as guaranteed under international legislation to which Turkey is a signatory.
Arat Dink and Sarkis Serkopyan were sentenced for an article published in Agos on 21 July 2006, which reported on an interview that then editor of the magazine, Hrant Dink, had given to the news agency, Reuters. In the article, entitled ‘A Vote Against 301’, Hrant Dink was quoted as referring to the mass killings and disappearances of Armenians in Turkey in the early years of the last century as a genocide. Hrant Dink was murdered by a nationalist extremist six months later.
Hrant Dink’s murder led to mass demonstrations in Turkey and international condemnation. In 2005 he had been sentenced to a six month suspended prison term under Article 301 and English PEN shares the belief that this targetted him as a ‘traitor’ and thus as a target for the extremist nationalists. His killer, and a number of others accused of being accomplices, are currently on trial. According to Reporters Without Borders, evidence in the investigation into Dink’s murder has apparently disappeared: ‘Evidence proving that the authorities … knew of the plans to kill Dink has been deliberately ignored,’ RSF claims. Meanwhile, concerns for the safety of Arat Dink, Sarkis Serkopyan and others who are on trial under Article 301, remains high.
Other Article 301 Cases
In another high profile case, publisher Ragip Zarakolu was in court in early October at the twelfth hearing of a case against him which opened in August 2005. He is being charged for publishing History Will Set us Free / Turkish-Armenian Conciliation by the Armenian author George Jerjian. The hearing was adjourned until 5 December 2007.
On 27 September, writer Umur Hoztali was convicted to a six month prison sentence, commuted to a fine of approximately 1,770 Euros. He had been charged for an article entitled ‘Irritating Men’ which criticised the police and judiciary and suggested that they are mistrusted by the general public.
Top level Turkish government officials have acknowledged that Article 301 is problematic and recently, newly elected President Abdullah Gül suggested that it could be amended. But the continuing trials and convictions of writers and journalists indicate that there has been little change of attitude, despite Hrant Dink’s murder.
Please send appeals:
• Protesting the one year sentences served against Arat Dink and Sarkis Serkopyan and the continuing trials against other writers and journalists under Article 301 and other laws that suppress the right to freedom of expression;
• Pointing out that these trials are in contravention of international standards protecting the right to freedom of expression as enshrined under Article 19 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, and Article 10 of the European Covenant on Human Rights, to which Turkey is a signatory;
• Expressing the hope that these trials will be dropped in recognition that they are in breach of the international treaties to which Turkey is committed;
• Supporting calls for the repeal of Article 301in recognition of the fact that it has been used to bring numerous people to the courts solely for having legitimately expressed their opinions, in direct violation of international human rights standards.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Office of the Prime Minister
Fax: 90 312 417 0476
Minister for Foreign Affairs
Mr Ali Babacan
Office of the Prime Minister
Fax: 90 312 287 8811
Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/writersinprison/bulletins/turkeyagosjournalistssentencedunderarticle301/