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22 01 2008 - Turkish penal code
From The Times - January 19, 2008
Turkish penal code
The UK and the EU must ensure that no one else is killed or persecuted for expressing their opinions

Sir, Demonstrations in Turkey this weekend, marking the anniversary of the murder of Hrant Dink, the editor of the Turkish-Armenian newspaper Agos and a brave advocate for the universal right of free expression, are a reminder that Turkey must urgently reform its penal code, which brands those who speak out on certain subjects as "traitors" and so makes them targets for extremists.

After referring in Agos to the Armenian massacres of 1915 as "genocide", Dink was charged with "insulting Turkishness" under Article 301 of the Penal Code. He was then shot by an ultranationalist outside his Istanbul offices on January 19, 2007. His son, Arat, and the newspaper's owner were given suspended sentences in October.

Like the many Turkish organisations that believe that true justice for Dink must include the urgent abolition of Article 301, we are dismayed at how little has changed in the past year. Writers, journalists and publishers continue to face charges under 301 and other similarly divisive articles, receiving frequent threats of violence as a result. Next week the Turkish parliament will discuss amendments to 301, but these are likely to prove inadequate, leaving "denigration of the Turkish nation" as a criminal offence carrying severe penalties.

Unfortunately, the EU, in its negotiations with Turkey, has insisted on amendment rather than repeal of these dangerous laws. The UK and the EU should now do all they can to ensure Article 301 is no longer used as a tool of repression, and that no one else is killed or persecuted solely for expressing opinions.

Agnès Callamard
Executive Director, Article 19

Jonathan Heawood
Director, English PEN

Henderson Mullin
Chief Executive, Index on Censorship


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