Sunday, 22 June 2008

The legal process as practised in Turkey

By Emma Ross-Thomas
June 19 2008

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Activists condemned on Thursday the conviction
of a Turkish publisher under a controversial law which Ankara reformed
just two months ago in a bid to satisfy EU demands for greater freedom
of expression.

Writers' organization International PEN said the conviction of Ragip
Zarakolu for insulting Turkey showed that Ankara's reform of penal
code article 301 was meaningless.

The reform removed a reference to "insulting Turkishness," for which
dozens of writers including Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk had been put
on trial -- but it is still a crime to insult the Turkish nation and
state. Justice Ministry approval is now needed to open a case.

"This is a very clear example that the so-called amendment of 301 is
good for nothing. It was just a bad joke
," International PEN chief
Eugene Schoulgin told Reuters, adding that there were more than 80
such cases pending against writers and journalists.

Turkish writers had warned before the April amendment that they would
continue to be targeted by nationalist prosecutors.

"This court decision seems to bear out our worst fears that the
changes to the law won't necessarily make a difference,"
said Human
Rights Watch's Turkey researcher Emma Sinclair-Webb.

The ruling AK Party defended the changes to article 301 saying that
other members of the European Union, which Ankara wants to join,
have similar rules. Brussels welcomed the reform as a step forward
but called for further moves.

Turkey has several other laws limiting free speech and this week a
popular transsexual singer, Bulent Ersoy, was on trial for "turning
people against military service" for comments she made on television,
local media reported.

Publisher Zarakolu was sentenced to five months in jail, convertible
into a fine, but will appeal, Schoulgin said. Zarakolu was not
available to comment.

He was tried for publishing a translation of a book about the Armenian
massacres, which Ankara denies amounted to genocide. George Jerjian's
"The Truth Will Set Us Free" is a call for reconciliation between
Turks and Armenians and tells the story of how a Turk saved the
writer's Armenian grandmother.

Pamuk was also tried for his comments about the Armenian massacres, but
his case was dropped. Armenian-Turkish editor Hrant Dink was convicted
under 301 for his calls for reconciliation between Turks and Armenians
before he was shot dead in Istanbul by a teenage nationalist last year.

21.06.2008 14:03 GMT+04:00

/PanARMENIAN.Net/ Miklos Haraszti, the OSCE Representative on
Freedom of the Media, today condemned the five-month prison sentence
handed down to Turkish publisher Ragip Zarakolu for "insulting the
institutions of the Turkish Republic" despite the fact that Article
301 of Turkey's Penal Code was recently reformed.

"It is disappointing that despite recent changes in the law, serious
obstacles to free speech in Turkey remain. People are still jailed
for publishing peaceful ideas," said Haraszti. "Freedom of debate in
Turkey will increase only if the government stops trying to control
the debate in the first place.

Article 301 must be abolished altogether."

Following a reform of Article 301 in April, the maximum prison
sentence was reduced from three years to two, and the crime of
"insulting Turkishness" was changed to "insulting the Turkish nation".

On 17 June, an Istanbul court found Zarakolu guilty of "insulting
the institutions of the Turkish Republic" for publishing a Turkish
translation of "The Truth Will Set Us Free" by British author George

The book covers the killings of Armenians in 1915.

"Publishing a book critical about a country's history should not be
criminalized in a democracy. The Helsinki principles, to which OSCE
participating States including Turkey have committed, provide for
the free flow of information and ideas
," said Haraszti, the OSCE
Communication unit reports.

In May 2008, Zarakolu was the recipient of the International Publishers
Association's Freedom to Publish Prize.


CBC News
June 19, 2008 Thursday 12:03 PM GMT

A Turkish court in Ankara has acquitted three teenage schoolboys of
"spreading separatist propaganda" after they sang a Kurdish song
during a U.S. tour.

Six younger members of the chorus who face the same charges are to
be tried in a juvenile court.

Prosecutors charged them for singing Ey Raqip, translated as Hey
Guard or Hey Enemy, which they say is a rebel song that promotes the
separatist agenda of the Kurdistan Workers Party or PKK.

The United States and the European Union consider the PKK, which
has been fighting for independence in Kurdish areas of Turkey,
a terrorist organization.

The children's lawyer, Baran Pamuk, said a court ruled Thursday that
his clients, aged 15 to 18, did not intentionally spread Kurdish

He also said it was likely that charges against the younger children
would be dismissed.

In court, Pamuk argued that it was unlikely the children even
understood the words of the song.

The choir, which comes from Diyarbakir, the largest city in the
predominantly Kurdish southeast, performed folk songs in eight
different languages - Assyrian, Armenian, Arabic, English, German,
Hebrew, Turkish and Kurdish - during the World Music Festival in San
Francisco last October.

The choir master claims the chorus sang Ey Raqip at the request of
the audience.

The song predates the PKK, having been written by the Kurdish poet
Dildar (1917-48) in 1938 while he was in prison in Iraq.

However, it is sometimes referred to as the Kurdish national anthem.

The lyrics say, in part, "the Kurdish nation is alive with its
language, cannot be defeated by the weapons of any time. Let no one
say Kurds are dead, Kurds are living."

Prosecutors continue to investigate the director of the children's

Amnesty International and the group Freemuse took up the cause of
the choir, saying the case was an effort to suppress free expression.

Turkey has come under intense criticism in the EU over its court cases
against writers and artists, many under laws that make it a crime to
"insult Turkishness."


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