PRESS RELEASE: PROTEST AT LACK OF LEGAL REFORM A YEAR AFTER DINK’S MURDER
The English Centre of International PEN, the worldwide writers’ association, is gravely disappointed that the shocking assassination of Hrant Dink one year ago has not led to any changes in the Turkish law that made him a target.
‘The continuing trials of Turkish writers, journalists and other intellectuals, both under Article 301 and other similar articles in the Penal Code, show that there has been no real change of attitude,’ said Jonathan Heawood, Director of English PEN. ‘It’s a scandal that we are still awaiting proposals for amendment of the Penal Code a full year after Dink’s death.’
Dink, who was the editor of the Turkish-Armenian newspaper Agos and a bold advocate for freedom of expression as a universal human right, was shot dead outside his office in Istanbul by ultra-nationalists on 19 January 2007.
He had consistently stood firm in the face of repeated prosecutions under Turkish laws concerning ‘insult to Turkishness’, and was facing such a prosecution under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code at the time of his death, after having referred in print to the Armenian massacres as ‘genocide’. These Article 301 charges, branding him as a ‘traitor’ in the eyes of nationalist fanatics, may be held partially responsible for his killing.
After Hrant Dink’s death, his son Arat, who replaced his father as Agos‘ editor, continued to face the same charges under Article 301 and was also sentenced to a one year suspended prison term on 11 October 2007. So too was the paper’s licence owner, Sarkis Serkopyan.
The trial of Ogün Samast, the man accused of killing Dink, is ongoing. Dink’s family and others have criticised the investigation for failing to include various officials who might have revealed a possible link between the murder and State authorities.
A year on, in commemoration of Hrant Dink and his determination, English PEN is supporting the ‘Hrant Için, Adalet Için’ (For Hrant, For Justice) campaign being run by a consortium of Turkish organisations who are staging events in Istanbul. ‘Hrant Dink dreamed of a democratic Turkey. We are here not just to honour his memory but to continue his work,’ said Maureen Freely, who is currently in Istanbul representing English PEN, to demonstrate the support of British writers for their Turkish colleagues and the Dink family.
Top level Turkish government officials have been forced to acknowledge that Article 301 is problematic, and President Abdullah Gül has suggested that it could be amended. PEN, however, is sceptical that the proposed amendments will prove adequate, and is calling instead for Article 301’s full repeal, on the grounds 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. The effect of such prosecutions is to intimidate those who speak freely on issues of national politics and history and to mark them as targets for nationalist violence.
Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/writersinprison/bulletins/turkeyenglishpenprotestslackoflegalreformayearafterhrantdinksmurder/