Turkey: News on Agos trials

On 14 June 2007, further trial hearings were held against Agos, leading to the acquittal of two of the defendants, Aydin Engin and Serkis Serkopyan, and the continuation of the case against Arat Dink. Another case has been opened against the author of an article implicating the Turkish armed forces in the killing of Hrant Dink.
 
In the first case, Serkis Serkopyan, the Agos licence owner and Arat Dink (son of Hrant Dink), its managing editor, were tried in a case that had been opened in September 2006. Hrant Dink had also been a key defendant. The case related to an article entitled ‘I vote against 301’ that included comments Hrant Dink made to the Reuters news agency in an interview on 21 July 2006 in which he stated his belief that there had been an Armenian genocide. This led to charges of insult to Turkishness. The trial continued despite Dink’s murder on 19 January 2007 (click here for more information).  On 14 June, Arat Dink told the court ‘I cannot deny myself, my history and my identity.’ Serkopyan added that he would still ‘vote against 301’.  Serkopyan was acquitted, but Dink remains on trial, with another hearing set for 18 July 2007.
 
The second case, held the same day, was initiated in December 2005 against  Hrant Dink, Arat Dink, Serkis Serkopyan and editor Aydin Engin under article 288 of the Penal Code that, ostensibly, protects courts from undue outside influence. They were charged for an article that questioned the conviction of Hrant Dink in October that year to a six months suspended prison term. Again, the trial continued despite the death of Hrant Dink. The next hearing is also set for 18 July.
 
The hearings, held in the Sisli court in Istanbul, were observed by a number of human rights observers, including Halil Ibrahim Özcam, the newly appointed head of Turkish PEN’s Writers in Prison Committee.
 
A fresh case related to comments on Hrant Dink’s murder was opened at the Beyoglu court in Istanbul on 31 May 2007 against the former president of the Istanbul Branch of the Human Rights Association, Eren Keskin, for her article titled ‘Special Forces At Work’ that implicated the Turkish army in the killing. She is accused under Article 301 of denigrating the armed forces. The next hearing is set for 27 September 2007.
 
Meanwhile, on 15 June, Hrant Dink’s widow, Rakel Dink, was presented with the International Publisher’s Association Freedom Prize – Special Award at the Cape Town Book Fair in South Africa. She told the meeting ‘It is with you, with people who are with us, with people whose hears are on fire alongside ours, that my family and I find the strength to take our pain upon our backs and to carry on.’ 
 
English PEN is dismayed that the trials against Agos staff continue despite the death of Hrant Dink and the ensuing public protests against the murder and the prosecutions. That those who comment on the murder also face trial is also a worrying indication of limited freedom of expression in Turkey. PEN continues to call for an end to trials against writers and journalists solely for their writings – trials that are not only in breach of international standards guaranteeing the right to freedom of expression, but that also ignore the Turkish public’s demands for an end to the use of laws such as Article 301 of the Penal Code that suppress free speech.
 
Please send appeals:
 
– Expressing concern that there are currently several other trials underway against writers, journalists and publishers accused under Article 301;
– 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;
– Supporting calls for the repeal of Article 301 in recognition of the fact that it has been used to bring numerous people to the courts solely for  having legitimately expressed their opinions.
 
Addresses:

 

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Office of the Prime Minister
Basbakanlik
06573 Ankara
Turkey
Fax: 90 312 417 0476
 
Foreign Minister and State Minister for Human Rights
Mr Abdullah Gül
Office of the Prime Minister
Basbakanlik
06573 Ankara
Turkey
Fax: 90 312 287 8811
 
It may be more effective to send appeals via Turkish representatives in London:

Chargé d’Affaires Mr. Atilay Ersan
Turkish Embassy
43 Belgrave Square
London SW1X 8PA

Fax: 020 7393 0066

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

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