Turkey: Fears of imprisonment for Ragip Zarakolu

***UPDATE: Zarakolu’s trial is currently (as of April 2008) postponed until 17 June, after Article 301 is due to be amended by the Turkish Parliament. The AKP submitted its draft amendments on Article 301 and 305 to the Parliament on 7 April 2008. In PEN’s view these amendments are inadequate and such articles should be abolished.. ***

There have been numerous hearings against Ragip Zarakolu since the trial opened in March 2005. He is being charged under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code for ‘insulting the State’ through his publication of Dora Sakayan‘s An Armenian Doctor in Turkey: Garabed Hatcherian: My Smyrna Ordeal of 1922. Zarakolu faces a maximum sentence of three years in prison.

Zarakolu has suffered harassment, trials and imprisonment ever since he set up his publishing house, Belge, in the 1970s. In 1995, he and his staff escaped injury when right wing extremists bombed their offices, forcing them to move into a basement site elsewhere in Istanbul.


This is just one of a string of trials against Zarakolu in recent years, all of which have been related to books he has published, mainly on minority rights issues, such as on Armenians and Kurds in Turkey, and on human rights. Most recently, another ‘301 case’ against him ended in acquittal when the court concluded that the Belge Publishing House’s publication of UK based George Jerjian‘s book History Will Set us Free /Turkish-Armenian Conciliation could not be penalised, as the author is not resident in Turkey.

Zarakolu has won numerous national and international freedom of expression awards, and is an Honorary Member of English PEN.


As of March 2008, around 20 other writers, publishers, journalists and academics are on trial under Article 301 for ‘insulting’ the Turkish State. Scores of people have been tried under this law since it came into existence in June 2005 for comments on issues ranging from an Armenian genocide, human rights abuses against the Kurds and criticism of the military, judiciary and other State institutions. As yet, none of these trials have ended in prison terms, although suspended sentences have been passed. The most notable of these was the six-month suspended sentence against Hrant Dink, editor of the Armenian language Agos newspaper, who was murdered in January 2007. It is widely believed that the sentence against Hrant Dink made him a target for assassination.

Please send appeals:

  • Expressing alarm at reports that a trial hearing against Ragip Zarakolu under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code could result in conviction and imprisonment;

  • Pointing out that, should this be the case, it would be in direct violation 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;

  • Supporting calls for the repeal of Article 301 of the Penal Code, in recognition of the fact that it has been used to bring numerous people to the courts in direct violation of international human rights standards, solely for having legitimately expressed their opinions.


Appeals to:


Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Office of the Prime Minister


06573 Ankara


Fax: 90 312 417 0476


Foreign Minister and State Minister for Human Rights

Mr Mehmet Ali Sahin

Office of the Prime Minister


06573 Ankara


Fax: 90 312 287 8811


It may be more effective, however, to send appeals via the Turkish embassy in London:


HE Mr Mehmet Yigit Alpogan

43 Belgrave Square




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

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