Turkey: Update on Campaign to Abolish Article 301

In December 2007, Turkish Minister of Justice Mehmet Ali Sahin stated that amendments to the notorious Article 301 of the Penal Code would be announced within 15 days. As of today, no amendments have been proposed to the Turkish parliament.

On 23 January 2008, four days after crowds gathered outside the offices of Agos to remember its editor, Hrant Dink, murdered in 2007, came the astonishing news that 33 people had been arrested on suspicion of being members of an ultra-nationalist group known as ‘Ergenekon’ who were planning a coup. In the few hours before a news blackout was enforced, the Turkish press reported that this group had planned a series of assassinations of high profile figures, including Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk and English PEN Honorary Member Leyla Zana. The newspapers also reported that police were looking into whether this group had been implicated the several murders of Hrant Dink, a Catholic priest Andrea Santoro in February 2006 and Mustafa Yucel Ozbilgin, a Supreme Court Magistrate, in May 2006.
Eleven of those arrested remain in custody at the time of writing. Among them is Kemal Kerincsiz, an ultra-nationalist lawyer who has been in the public eye since 2005 when he filed a criminal complaint against Orhan Pamuk under Article 301. Kerincsiz also initiated the trial against Hrant Dink that led to a six month suspended sentence, and a number of other similar cases against journalists and academics.

It has been suggested that these arrests, along with the debate around the lifting restrictions on wearing of the headscarf, have pushed back discussions of Article 301.
Thus the trials continue. On 31 January, International PEN spoke to publisher and English PEN Honorary Member Ragip Zarakolu shortly after his hearing held that day under Article 301 – the 11th since the trial opened in 2004   – for publishing a book referring to a genocide against Armenians. Zarakolu, understandably relieved that he is not yet to be imprisoned, awaits his next trial hearing which is set for 8 April and is likely to be the final session at which he will learn whether he is to be convicted or acquitted.

Far from abating, writers, journalists and publishers are suffering sometimes increased threats. One such person is author and columnist, Perihan Magden whose outspoken articles that criticise leading figures have led her to the courts in the past year, most notably for writing seen to discourage military service. Well used to threats, the situation had become untenable in early 2008 when she and another writer, Ece Temelkuran were made public targets of attack in articles published in the right wing daily Halka ve Olaylar Tercüman (Interpreter of People and Events). Magden had written an article condemning the praise given to school children who had presented a flag painted in their own blood to the Chief of General Staff. Temelkuran had also written at article in which she shares the same concerns about rising nationalism. The articles in turn led to vitriolic pieces against them in Tercüman, heightening the death threats against them. Lawyers are now asking for the prosecution of two Tercüman editors for endangering the writers’ lives.

Please send appeals:

  • Protesting the continuing trial against Ragip Zarakolu and 20 others charged with ‘insulting Turkishness’ under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code.
  • Expressing alarm at the continuing threats against Turkish writers’ personal safety and security, and urging that there be increased measures taken to bring to justice those that threaten such individuals.
Appeals to:

Minister of Justice
Mr Mehmet Ali Sahin  
Ministry of Justice
Adalet Bakanlıgı
06659 Ankara

Fax:   90 312 419 33
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Office of the Prime Minister
06573 Ankara
Fax: 90 312 417 0476

It may be most effective to send the above appeals care of the Turkish representative in London:

H.E. Mr Mehmet Yiğit Alpogan
43 Belgrave Square

Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/writersinprison/bulletins/turkeyarticle301/

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