Fears That Hearing Will Lead to Sentencing of Publisher Rag?p Zarakolu
International PEN fears that a hearing on April 8, 2008, will end with the sentencing of publisher and PEN Honorary Member Ragip Zarakolu, who is charged with “insult” under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code. PEN protests the charges against Zarakolu, which are in clear contradiction of international standards safeguarding the right to freedom of expression.|
Call for a Repeal of Article 301 in Turkey
There have been numerous hearings against Ragip Zarakolu since his trial opened in March 2005. He is charged under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (formerly Article 159 of the old Penal Code) for “insulting the State” by publishing Dora Sakayan’s An Armenian Doctor in Turkey: Garabed Hatcherian: My Smyrna Ordeal of 1922. Zarakolu faces a maximum sentence of three years in prison.
This is just one of a string of trials against Zarakolu in recent years, all related to books he has published on minority-rights issues such as Armenians and Kurds in Turkey, and on human rights. Most recently another “301” case against him ended in acquittal when the court concluded that Zarakolu’s Belge Publishing House’s publication of UK-based George Jerjian’s book The Truth Will Set Us Free: Armenians and Turks Reconciled could not be penalized as the author is not a resident of Turkey.
As of March 2008, 20 other writers, publishers, journalists, and academics are on trial under Article 301 for “insulting” the Turkish state for comments on issues ranging from Armenian genocide, human-rights abuses against the Kurds, and criticism of the military, judiciary, and other state institutions. Scores of people have been tried under this law since it came into existence in June 2005. None have yet ended in prison terms, although suspended sentences have been passed. Most notable of these was the six-month suspended sentence against Hrant Dink, editor of the Armenian-language Agos newspaper, who was murdered in January 2007. It is widely believed that the sentence against Hrant Dink had made him a target for assassination.
Zarakolu is one of Turkey’s best-known dissident publishers, having suffered harassment, trials and imprisonment ever since he set up his publishing house, Belge, in the 1970s. In 1995, he and his staff escaped injury when his offices was bombed by right-wing extremists, forcing it to move into a basement site elsewhere in Istanbul. He is winner of numerous national and international freedom of expression awards, and is an honrary member of several PEN Centers.
Write A Letter
- expressing alarm at news that a trial hearing against Ragip Zarakolu under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code could result in conviction;
- pointing out that should this occur, it would be in direct violation of international standards protecting the right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by 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, in direct violation of international human-rights standards.
Send Your Letter To
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Office of the Prime Minister
Fax: +90 312 417 0476
Foreign Minister and State Minister for Human Rights
Mr. Mehmet Ali Sahin
Office of the Prime Minister
Fax: +90 312 287 8811