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January 24, 2007, Wednesday

301 is an embarrassment

Hrant Dink was tried and convicted under Article 301, which has become notorious for its damage to Turkey, Turks and Turkishness.
That is why I always said those who were responsible for the wording of 301 should be prosecuted under the same bill, for insulting Turkey, and then the article should be abolished without any further discussion, once and for all. There could not be any greater damage to Turkey than 301 has inflicted upon us in recent years.

It is ironic that 301 was drafted in the Turkish Penal Code when the law was being reformed for the sake of EU accession. The suspicion is that it was drafted to torpedo the EU accession process, and it is difficult to understand the way the AK Party has been handling the issue, i.e., to insist on waiting to see case law to emerge.

What is for sure is until a case law will be up and running, murders, convictions and embarrassments are emerging. A brief look at how 301 have been used, or rather misused, to restrict freedom of expression -- thus creating a huge anti-Turkish atmosphere, not only in the West but all over the world -- will present ample evidence that the very law itself is an insult to “Turkishness”

To cite just a few:

* Orhan Pamuk was tried for his interview with a Swiss newspaper on the Armenian tragedy of 1915, several months after the interview was published. Nobody understood why prosecutors waited for so long.

* Elif Şafak was in court when she was about to give a birth to a baby girl because of the fictitious characters she created in her novel, “The Bastard of İstanbul” I have not seen one single article or news story in the Western media that did not mock the Turkish judiciary for its prosecution of fictitious characters.

* İpek Çalişlar faced prosecutors simply because she wrote in a biography of Mustafa Kemal's wife Latife that Atatürk had once fled disguised as a woman. Many in the West asked, “Do Turks believe Atatürk was god incarnate?”

* Faruk Çakır, the managing editor of Yeni Asya daily, has been prosecuted for allegations of insulting the Turkish Armed Forces, arguing that the shooter who attacked Turkey's Council of State last May killing a judge was linked to an organization seeking a wider Turkic empire and that retired members of the Turkish Armed Forces had played a soliciting role in the shooting.

We could cite many more examples, but we have to underline one brazen fact: that is it was only Hrant Dink who was convicted under 301, adding salt to the wound. We have now lost him. We were not able to honor him while he was alive, but we can honor him now by abolishing this shameful article. That would be the worst punishment for his killers. Freedom of expression is the mother of civilization.