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Turkey19 July 2006

Armenian editor could face new prosecution for referring to Armenian “genocide”

The Istanbul public prosecutor yesterday opened a new investigation against Hrant Dink, the managing editor of the Armenian-language weekly Agos, this time for referring to the massacre of Armenians in 1915 as “genocide.”

Dink used the term in a 14 July interview for the British news agency Reuters about his suspended sentence of six months in prison for “insulting Turkish identity.” He could face up to three years in prison if convicted on the new charge. The Turkish state still refuses to recognise that a massacre of Armenians took place during the First World War.


12 July 2006

Appeal Court upholds suspended prison sentence against Hrant Dink

Reporters Without Borders said it was baffled by an appeal court decision to uphold a six-month suspended prison sentence against Hrant Dink, managing editor of the weekly Agos, for referring to the 1915 genocide against the Armenians.

Dink was sentenced on appeal on 12 July in connection with a column in Agos on 13 February 2004, on which he was found guilty of “insulting Turkish identity” under Article 301 of the criminal code.

The ethnic-Armenian had called on Armenians to “now turn their attention to the new life offered by an independent Armenia”.

“We are surprised by this conviction which is particularly shocking for the entire profession,” said the press freedom organisation. “This ruling will strengthen the climate of self-censorship on subjects which are seen as sensitive by the Turkish state.”

“Turkey’s criminal law is among Europe’s most repressive towards freedom of expression. It is unacceptable that criticism of institutions or offences of opinion should be liable to prison sentences. The criminal code, particularly Articles 301 and 125, should be urgently amended to conform to European standards,” it added.

“Turkey has been condemned at least five times by the European Court of Human Rights since the start of 2006, for its failure to respect free expression.”

One of the journalist’s lawyers, Fethiye Cetin, told Reporters Without Borders that she was waiting to formally receive the court’s decision so that she could appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

Dink is facing up to three years in prison in connection with another trial in which he is accused of “trying to influence the course of justice”.


5 July 2006

Editor’s trial adjourned until December in continuing judicial harassment

The trial of Hrant Dink, the managing editor of the weekly Agos, has again been adjourned, this time until December. He was charged last October with trying to influence the course of justice by criticising the suspended six-month prison sentence he had received for “insulting Turkish identity.” In all, he has been hounded by the judicial authorities for more than a year.

Citing the principle of free expression, a provincial court acquitted him of the insult charge on 10 February but this ruling was subsequently overturned by a higher appeal court in the capital, Ankara. Dink’s son, Arat, and two other Agos journalists, Aydin Engin and Serkis Seropiyan, are also to be tried on the same charge of trying to influence the course of justice. They all face up to three years in prison.


17 may 2006

The trial of Hrant Dink adjourned for security reasons

The authorities suspended the trial of Hrant Dink, managing editor of the weekly Agos, because of violent disruption by militant nationalists who turned up to attend the hearing at a court in Istanbul. It was adjourned until 4 July.

Police had to escort Dink out of a back door of the court after he was set upon by a group of jurists. Security forces had to intervene to prevent the militants from entering the courtroom.

The journalist, who is an ethnic Armenian, was appearing before the Istanbul court on 16 May 2006, accused of having attempted “to influence justice” by questioning the operation of the justice system in his country in the columns of his newspaper.

Three other journalists, including Hrant Dink’s son, are also facing trial on the same charges. They all face up to three years in prison.


2 May 2006

Court cancels suspension of sentence in Hrant Dink case

An appeal court in Ankara has called for a retrial for Hrant Dink, editor of a bi-lingual Turkish-Armenian weekly Agos, who was given a suspended six-month prison sentence for having “insulted Turkish identity”.

The 9th chamber of the court of cassation said on 1st May that it was calling for a retrial because the suspension was not valid for the offence committed by the accused and the remarks made by Dink did not come within the protection of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Unless the state prosecutor opposes the call for a review, a new trial will be heard before the second chamber of the court in Sisli in Istanbul.

The journalist, who is an ethnic Armenian, had been acquitted by a provincial court on 3 February 2006.

Dink still has a second trial pending, at which he will be charged with trying to influence the courts, on which he faces from four to five years in prison. It is due to open in Istanbul on 16 May.


10 February 2006

Provincial court acquits journalist in the name of freedom of expression

Reporters Without Borders said it welcomed the decision of a court in Sanliurfa, south-eastern Turkey to acquit journalist Hrant Dink of “insulting Turkish identity”.

“A verdict of this kind is sufficiently unusual to deserve congratulation. It is a first promising step towards better recognition for freedom of expression in Turkey and we hope that this verdict will make jurisprudence,” said the press freedom organisation. “Offences of opinion should not incur prison sentences,” it added.

Prosecutor Ali Ergen and the president of the court, Adnan Rahmi Karaçam, said that the journalist’s comments in the incriminating article should be interpreted in the light of freedom of expression and did not constitute an offence. He was thus acquitted on 9 February 2006.

Hrant Dink, editor of the bi-lingual Turkish-Armenian weekly Agos was sentenced on 7 October 2005 to a six-month suspended prison sentence under Article 301, paragraph 1 of the Turkish criminal code for having “insulted Turkish identity”, in an article published on 13 February 2004. In it he paid homage to the Armenian diaspora and the 1915 genocide.

Dink, who said he was relieved by the verdict, said he hoped above all that there would now be an end to such charges being brought in the country: “People should be free to express themselves freely. Cases like mine damage both the victims and Turkey’s image”, he added.

He is still facing trial for having attempted to influence the justice system under Article 288 of the criminal code, along with three of his colleagues. They all face from four to five years in prison for having criticised the judicial authorities after Dink was convicted in October 2005.

This second trial should open in Istanbul on 16 May.


7 October 2005

Journalist of Armenian origin sentenced for “insulting Turkish national identity”

Editor of a Turkish-Armenian bi-lingual weekly, Hrant Dink, was on 7 October 2005 handed down a suspended six-month prison sentence after being convicted of “insulting Turkish national identity”.

Dink, editor of Agos, appeared before a court in Sisli, Istanbul, charged under Article 301 paragraph 1 of the Turkish criminal code, after writing an article “Get to know Armenia”, published on 13 February 2004.

The prosecutor general, Muhittin Ayata, had called for a six-month sentence without suspension, but the judges suspended the sentence because they considered that the sentiment expressed in the article could not be interpreted as an insult, but rather as a criticism. The journalist has appealed.


13 July 2005

A journalist of armenian origin faces three years jail for "insulting Turkish identity"

Reporters Without Borders today criticised the current trial of a Turkish-Armenian journalist, Hrant Dink, for "insulting Turkish identity" and said the government taboo against publicly discussing the 1915 genocide against Armenians was a "continuing barrier to freedom of expression" in Turkey.

It said that with only three months to go before negotiations were due to start about Turkey joining the European Union, Dink risked being jailed under article 301 of the criminal code for publishing an article (on 13 February 2004) called "Getting to know Armenia" in the Turkish-Armenian bilingual weekly, Agos, that he runs. His trial began on 7 July before a court in Sisli, Istanbul.

The world press freedom organisation said it was concerned about fuzzy language in the new criminal code that could "easily be used against journalists discussing sensitive topics," such as the Armenian genocide or withdrawal of Turkish troops from Cyprus.

Dink’s article urged Armenians to turn their attention "to the new blood of independent Armenia," as the only way to free them from the burden of exile and called on them to symbolically reject "the adulterated part of their Turkish blood." Nine complaints for "insulting Turkish identity" had been filed against him by 16 April 2004 before the Sisli court.

"This trial is based on a total misunderstanding," Dink told Reporters Without Borders. "I never meant to insult Turkish citizens. The term in question was taken out of context and is only symbolic. The real subject of the article is the Armenian diaspora who, once they have come to terms with the Turkish part of their identity, can seek new answers to their questions from independent Armenia."

State prosecutor Turgay Evsen has called for a three-year prison sentence for Dink under the new penal code, which came into force on 1 June. Dink founded his paper in Istanbul in 1996 and it has a circulation of 5,500.




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