Turkey: Insult trials continue; Ipek Calislar acquitted

The acquittal today of author Ipek Calislar, accused of insulting the memory of Kemal Atatürk in her biography of his first wife, is warmly welcomed by English PEN. PEN remains concerned that other writers and journalists remain on trial in Turkey on charges of “insulting” Atatürk, the founder and first president of the Turkish Republic, and on charges under similar articles of the Turkish Penal Code.

Ipek Calislar was tried for her best selling biography of Atatürk’s first wife, Latife Hanim, under Article 5816 of the Penal Code for a passage that described the founder of the Turkish Republic escaping a life threatening situation in the guise of a woman. 

Another accused of insult to be acquitted in recent weeks was publisher Fatih Tas, who was cleared at a 29 November trial of having insulted “Turkishness” by publishing a Turkish translation of American academic John Tirman’s book The Spoils of War. However there was no such good news for others on trial, among them those who have endured many court hearings over a period of years such as Ragip Zarakolu, a publisher who has been on trial since 2004 for two books that refer to the massacre of Armenians in Turkey at the turn of the last century, and who learned on 14 December that his case would drag on at least another three months. The next hearings are set for 15 March 2007.

Another who is facing the prospect of many more months on trial is Hrant Dink, editor of the Armenian language newspaper Agos. He faces two prosecutions, one launched against him in July 2006 on charges of “insulting Turkishness” under Article 301 for writing a newspaper piece critical of the very Article, which will continue on 22 March. The other prosecution, under Article 288 of the Penal Code for “attempting to influence a fair trial”, relates to an article published in his newspaper in October 2005 commenting on an earlier conviction, also under Article 301, for which he was subsequently sentenced to a six month suspended prison sentence. The next hearing will be on 18 April 2007.

International PEN is currently monitoring over 80 cases of writers and journalists on trial in Turkey, 20 of whom are charged with insult. 

Hopes that Article 301 of the Penal Code will be repealed or amended as part of the conditions for the continuing discussions on Turkey’s application for membership of the European Union have not yet been met.  Amendment or removal of this article was among a number of conditions that the European Commission recommended to the European Council when it met on 15 December to decide on how it would proceed with Turkey’s application. The focus was, however, on Turkey’s refusal to open its ports to traffic from Cyprus. As a result, discussions on Turkey’s entry have been slowed. Lawyers and human rights activists in Turkey continue to call for changes to Article 301 of the Penal Code.

English PEN welcomes the acquittal of Ipek Calislar and Fatih Tas, yet remains concerned that a large number of other writers and journalists are still before the courts on charges of insult. It considers the laws on which these trials are based to be in direct violation of the right to freedom of expression and urges that the promised review of these laws be undertaken as a matter of urgency.

Please send appeals:

–  Welcoming the recent acquittals of Ipek Calislar and Fatih Tas

–  Expressing concern that similar trials against other writers, journalists and publishers continue

–  Urging that promises to repeal or amend laws that allow for the imprisonment of writers, notably Article 301, be acted on without further delay

–  Calling for an end to all prosecutions of writers, journalists and publishers solely for the peaceful practice of their professions.

Please address such appeals to:

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Office of the Prime Minister

TC Basbakanlik


06573 Ankara


Fax: 90 312 417 0476

Foreign Minister and State Minister for Human Rights

Mr Abdullah Gül

Office of the Prime Minister


06573 Ankara


Fax: 90 312 287 8811

It may be most effective to ask the Turkish ambassador in London to forward your letters to the above. His address is:

HE Mr Akin Alptuna

43 Belgrave Square

London SW1X 8PA

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

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