Journalists and Academics under Judicial Process

13/02/2006
Press release

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its member organisations in Turkey, the Human Rights Association (IHD) and the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT) are deeply concerned about the possible sanctions which hanged over Mr. Ibrahim Kaboglu and Mr. Baskin Oran, Turkish academics who have coordinated a report on minority rights released in October 2004 and carried out under the auspices of the Human Rights Advisory Board, a State body which reports to the Office of the Prime Minister.

On 15 February 2006, Mr. Kaboglu, former head of the Human Rights Advisory Council and Mr. Oran, member of this Council, will appear before the Ankara Penal Court of First Instance. They have been charged under Articles 216/I and 301/II of the new Penal Code, for « inciting hatred and enmity » and « humiliation of the courts authority », they face 18 months to five years in prison.

In 2004, a Minority and Cultural Rights Commission had been established under the presidency of Baskin Oran under the Human Rights Advisory Council headed by Mr. Kaboglu. A report on cultural and minority rights had been written by the chairman of the Commission Baskin Oran. When the report calling on Turkey to grant more rights to minorities as well as overhaul its approach to national identity was released in October 2004, it reportedly provoked a lively debate within Turkey. An investigation was subsequently launched against the author of the report and the chairman of the Council, claiming that their positions were untenable, in violation of Art. 15 (3) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights ratified by Turkey in September 2003 which stipulates that « the State parties (...) undertake to respect the freedom indispensable for scientific research (...) ».

This case is an additional example of infringements to the freedom of expression which constitutes a flagrant violation of the international standards and, in particular of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which was ratified by Turkey in September 2003. Our organisations reiterate their deepest concerns regarding the multiplicity of legal actions aiming at punishing the freedom of expression and in particular, the frequent use of Article 301 of the revised Turkish Penal Code on the denigration of « Turkishness », the Republic, and the foundation and institutions of the State, to prosecute non-violent critical opinions [1].

On 7 February 2006, the trial of five journalists of Radikal and Milliyet newspapers charged with criticising the Istanbul administrative court’s ban of a university conference about the Armenian question started before the Court of Bagcilar district. The trial has been postponed on 11 April. Four of the charged journalists are being prosecuted under Art. 301 of the Turkish Penal Code and they face six months to ten years of imprisonment.

Our organisations welcome that on 22 January 2006, the Orhan Pamuk case was dismissed by the first instance court of Sisli. On 9 February 2006, Mr. Hrant Dink and Mr. Sehmuz Ülek, vice-President of Mazlum-Der, a Turkish human rights organisation, accused of « insult to the Turkish State » for statements they made during a conference held in Mazlum-Der Urfa branch in December 2002, were finally acquitted on the grounds that the elements of crime were not materialised. Nevertheless, on 25 December 2005, Mr. Dink was again charged with three of his colleagues of Agos magazine of « attempting to influence the judiciary ». This accusation has followed a column published in the magazine which criticized a sentence pronounced against Hrant Dink, on 7 October 2005.

Our organisations urge the Turkish authorities to take all necessary measures to ensure the respect of freedom of expression and in this regard, to amend the domestic legislation, particularly Articles of the Penal Code and among them Art. 301, which constitute a threat to freedom of expression in violation of Turkey international legal obligations.

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