Turkey: Author Ipek Çalislar and Publisher Ragip Zarakolu “Insult” Trials Postponed

The first trial hearing against the author of a best selling biography, Ipek Çalislar, and the continuing hearings against publisher Ragip Zarakolu were postponed again today, 5 October. They are among around 20 writers, publishers and journalists standing trial on charges of insult for their writings and publications.

These hearings are often drawn out over many months and although in recent years have not ended in actual imprisonment, they are hugely time consuming and create enormous disruption to the lives writers who dare to comment on Turkey’s many taboo topics. Commentators suggest that the postponements may partly be in response to confusing signals from the Turkish judiciary following reports that penal code amendments could soon be underway, with special scrutiny of Article 301 that penalises “insult to Turkishness” and under which numerous writers have been prosecuted.

Ipek Çalislar, the author of Latife Hanim (Lady Latife), trial opened on 5 October for her biography of the first wife of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. The trial was postponed to either 19 December 2006, or 14 February 2006, the exact date to be confirmed later. She could be sentenced to up to 4 ½ years for “insult” to the memory of Atatürk, under Law 5816. Çalislar was not present at the hearing.

On the same day publisher Ragip Zarakolu two further hearings were held in the long-standing trials against him for publishing two books, both under Article 301 and both referring to the murders of Armenians at the turn of the last century. The date of the next hearings have yet to be set.

Yesterday, 4 October, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with the European Commissioner for Expansion, Olli Rehn, in Ankara to discuss the further measures that Turkey must take to enable progression towards membership of the EU. According to reports, one of the major topics of discussion was Article 301 of the Penal Code that the EU is recommending be removed from the statute books. It is reported that after this meeting, Olli Rehn stated “In other countries’ penal codes there are no articles which state anything about [for example] ‘insulting Britishness, or insulting Finnishness’ “.

English PEN remains deeply alarmed by the continuing court cases against writers, journalists and publishers on charges that are in breach of international human rights conventions. It calls for an end to these trials and for a thorough review of the legislation that penalise freedom of expression as guaranteed under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Right, to which Turkey has stated its commitment.

Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/writersinprison/bulletins/turkeyauthoripekalislarandpubl/

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