Turkey's prime minister has criticised a Turkish internet petition which apologises for the great catastrophe of 1915 when Armenians were massacred.
The petition was launched by more than 200 Turkish academics and newspaper columnists .
Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: I find it unreasonable to apologise when there is no reason.
Hundreds of thousands of Armenians died at the hands of Ottoman Turks in 1915. Turkey denies that it was genocide . Erdogan
said the petition risked stirring trouble. He called it irrational and wrong .
The petition was also condemned by some 60 Turkish former ambassadors, who called it an act of betrayal.
Many international historians say the
massacres and deaths of Armenians during their forced removal from what is now eastern Turkey were genocide.
The intellectuals behind the petition say they want to challenge the official denial and provoke discussion in Turkish society
about what happened.
The petition is entitled I apologise . A short statement at the top reads: My conscience cannot accept the ignorance and denial of the Great Catastrophe that the Ottoman Armenians were subjected to in 1915. I reject
this injustice and - on my own behalf - I share the feelings and pain of my Armenian brothers - and I apologise to them.
Turkey's decision to try two Christians under a revised version of a controversial law for insulting Turkishness because they spoke about their faith came as a blow to the country's record of freedom of speech and religion.
A court on Feb.
24 received the go-ahead from the Ministry of Justice to try Christians Turan Topal and Hakan Tastan under the revised Article 301 – a law that has sparked outrage among proponents of free speech as journalists, writers, activists and lawyers have been
tried under it. The court had sent the case to the Ministry of Justice after the government on May 8, 2008 put into effect a series of cosmetic changes to the law.
The justice ministry decision came as a surprise to Topal and Tastan and their
lawyer, as missionary activities are not illegal in Turkey. Defense lawyer Haydar Polat said no concrete evidence of insulting Turkey or Islam has emerged since the case first opened two years ago.
A Ministry of Justice statement claimed that
approval to try the case came in response to the original statement by three young men – Fatih Kose, Alper Eksi and Oguz Yilmaz – that Topal and Tastan were conducting missionary activities in an effort to show that Islam was a primitive and fictitious
religion that results in terrorism, and to portray Turks as a cursed people.
Prosecutors have yet to produce any evidence indicating the defendants described Islam in these terms, and Polat said Turkey's constitution grants all citizens
freedom to choose, be educated in and communicate their religion, making missionary activities legal.
After three prosecution witnesses testified yesterday that they didn't even know two Christians on trial for insulting Turkishness and Islam, a defense lawyer called the trial a scandal.
Speaking after the hearing in the drawn-out trial, defense attorney Haydar Polat said the case's initial acceptance by a state prosecutor in northwestern Turkey was based only on a written accusation from the local gendarmerie headquarters unaccompanied by any documentation.
Yesterday's three witnesses, all employed as office personnel for various court departments in Istanbul, testified that they had never met or heard of the two Christians on trial. The two court employees who had requested New Testaments testified
that they had initiated the request themselves.
For the next hearing set for Jan. 28, 2010, the court has repeated its summons to three more prosecution witnesses who failed to appear yesterday: a woman employed in Istanbul's security police
headquarters and two armed forces personnel whose whereabouts had not yet been confirmed by the population bureau.
eleventh hearing of a case of alleged slander against two Turkish Christians closed just minutes after it opened this week, due to lack of any progress.
Prosecutors produced no new evidence or witnesses against Hakan Tastan and Turan Topal since
the last court session four months ago. Despite lack of any tangible reason to continue the stalled case, their lawyer said, the Silivri Criminal Court set still another hearing to be held on 14 October.
They are uselessly dragging this out,
defence lawyer Haydar Polat said moments after Judge Hayrettin Sevim closed the 25 May hearing. The two Protestant Christians were accused in October 2006 of slandering the Turkish nation and Islam under Article 301 of the Turkish criminal code.
The prosecution has yet to provide any concrete evidence of the charges, which allegedly took place while the two men were involved in evangelistic activities in the town of Silivri.
At this point, we are tired of this, Tastan admitted.
If they can't find these so-called witnesses, then the court needs to issue a verdict. After four years, it has become a joke!
A British Stuckist artist, Michael Dickinson, has fled Turkey after learning that his acquittal last September, over insulting the Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan in a collage, has been overturned.
The case gained international media
coverage and the acquittal was seen as a step forward in Turkey's human rights record with positive implications for its pending EU application.
The collage Good Boy showed Erdogan as a dog on a stars and stripes leash.
A week ago,
a late night news broadcast in Turkey said that the acquittal had been quashed and a new case against Dickinson was pending. He said: I caught a plane out as soon as I could, leaving most of my possessions behind, including my books, furnishings and
computer. I was sad to leave after 23 years in Turkey, but I don't fancy another taste of Turkish hospitality in incarceration.
Dickinson is expecting the trial to go ahead in absentia with his being represented by his lawyer.
now staying with friends in Durham, UK, where he was born. He said: I came back thinking I would be safe, but I've since learnt that Britain has an extradition treaty with Turkey and that if there was a request, Britain could send me back to Turkey if
they so wished. I initially thought this was out of the question, but a number of highly unlikely and controversial extraditions have occurred, so I can't say I even feel secure now in the land of my birth and the land supposedly of free speech.
Charles Thomson, co-founder of the Stuckist art movement of which Dickinson is a member, has campaigned on his behalf, and said, It seems when the media spotlight is on, Turkey becomes remarkably tolerant, and when the international press go away,
so do human rights.
Dickinson's problems began in June 2006, in an anti-Iraq War show in Istanbul run by Erkan Kaya of the Peace and Justice Coalition (BAK). Dickinson added to his existing display of work, without Kaya's knowledge, a collage
Best in Show , showing Erdogan as a dog being presented with a rosette by President Bush. It was seized by police. As Kaya was facing prosecution for insulting the dignity of the Prime Minister , an offence with a potential jail sentence,
Dickinson wrote a letter to the court, saying that it was his responsibility, not Kaya's.
Thomson, wrote to then-Prime Minister of the UK, Tony Blair, asking for intervention. The judge who received Dickinson's letter ruled that Dickinson would
not be prosecuted, because of the unwelcome press attention involving the appeal to Blair. Kaya would be prosecuted, however.
In September 2006, Dickinson on his own initiative went to the court for Kaya's case (which was postponed) to protest
Kaya's innocence. To draw attention, Dickinson held up outside the court a new collage Good Boy. He was arrested and detained for 10 days in conditions he described as horrific . David Blunkett, then in Istanbul, intervened on his behalf.
Dickinson was released, but told he would be prosecuted for the new collage.
In September 2008, Dickinson was acquitted of any offence under article 123/5 insulting the dignity of the prime minister. The judge said he thought that the
collage was insulting according to Turkish standards, but not according to standards in the European community, and, as Turkey was trying to join the European community, a collage such as Dickinson's should not be held as a crime, so he felt he had no
alternative but to acquit.
Dickinson lost his job teaching English at Istanbul University and found he was blacklisted by other educational establishments. He survived by telling fortunes with runes on the street.
In June 2009, Dickinson
found out that the public prosecutor had applied to the court, which had quashed the acquittal on 21 June, and ruled that he case would be heard again. Dickinson immediately left Turkey for the UK.
Andrew McIntosh, the author of a report on media freedom for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), has warned that Turkey is in violation of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and as such the European Court of
Human Rights may impose sanctions on Turkey for its notorious Article 301, which restricts freedom of expression for members of the media.
British MP Andrew McIntosh told Today's Zaman: The report is unequivocal about Article 301. It says
Article 301 violates Article 10 of the European convention. If a case was started, that opinion, which is the view of PACE, can be tested in the court of law.
The report said the Assembly welcomes amendments made to Article 301 of the
Turkish Penal Code [TCK] but deplores the fact that Turkey has not abolished Article 301. Criminal charges have been brought against many journalists under the slightly revised Article 301, which still violates Article 10 of the European Convention on
Turkish deputies, addressing the floor, objected to McIntosh's proposition and claimed that the European court has not made a ruling and that the report erroneously states that the amended article still violates Article 10 of the
European Convention on Human Rights. Ertuğrul Kumcuoğlu from the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) even tabled an amendment to delete the proposition from the report.
PACE argued that the changes
in Article 301 have not substantially reduced the number of court cases in which writers or journalists have been prosecuted for their published opinions.
PACE further recommended that the Committee of Ministers call on the government of Turkey to
revise their defamation and insult laws and their practical application in accordance with assembly resolutions. In January 2009 the IPI criticized attempts to prosecute Turkish cartoonists for lampooning senior government figures.
A senior official at the world's largest intergovernmental organization focusing on media freedoms has lambasted Turkey for imposing restrictions on Internet sites and criticized media accreditation methods to ban reporters from attending press
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) media representative Miklos Haraszti told Today's Zaman in Strasbourg last week that Turkey needs to reform or abolish Law 5651, commonly known as the Internet Law, which
restricts access to popular Web sites including video-sharing Web site YouTube. He also warned that changes made to notorious Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), which makes it a crime to attack the Turkish nation in the media, are inadequate
and that the government simply needs to get rid of that law.
It puts Turkey in bad company with countries like Iran and China, though Turkey is basically a free country, Haraszti said, stressing that Turkey should either reform or abolish
the Internet Law in its current form. He warned that the practice is simply not in line with OSCE commitments and other international standards on freedom of expression. The government does have tools to go after illegitimate sites and punish those
who violate laws. But do not block whole access to Web sites. It is not solving problems, he remarked.
A British artist has accused Turkey of censorship after an Istanbul court fined him almost $4,500 for caricaturing the country's prime minister.
Artist Michael Dickinson displayed in 2006 an illustration that superimposed the head of Turkish
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan onto the body of a dog.
The court suspended the fine, on the condition that Dickinson does not produce similar art for the next five years.
It's censorship. It's a threat. It's punishing people who are
expressing their opinion, Dickinson told dpa, the day after the verdict was handed down. There is a lack of freedom in a country where journalists can be arrested or cartoonists fined for expressing their opinion, said the artist, who has been
living in Turkey for the last 23 years.
Dickinson's illustration was first shown as part of an Istanbul anti-war exhibition. The artist was later arrested and charged with insulting the Turkish prime minister. A local court initially acquitted
Dickinson in 2008, but a state prosecutor asked that the case be reopened.
Baris Yarkadas, the editor of the online newspaper Gercek Gündem (Real Agenda), is facing up to five years in prison at a trial that started on 3 March 2010.
Proceedings were initiated in response to a complaint brought by the president's
office. He is charged with insulting President Abdullah Gül under article 299-2 of the criminal code for failing to remove a comment posted by a reader.
We call for the immediate withdrawal of this baseless charge, Reporters Without
Borders said. It is incomprehensible that Yarkadas should be accused of insulting the president when he did not himself write the comment, which was anyway neither rude nor insulting. This prosecution is indicative of a desire by the government to
intimidate and silence its critics.
The reader accused President Gül of allowing his Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sargsyan, to defy him. Bravo, you have trampled on the honour of the great republic of Turkey, he wrote.
Yarkadas is facing other prosecutions. He is charged with offending Nur Birgen, head of the Institute for Forensic Medicine's expertise section, by reporting allegations that human rights NGOs have made against her.
The European Union on Tuesday will criticize Turkey sharply over the rising number of prosecutions against journalists in an annual progress report on the country's bid to join the bloc, said a person familiar with the draft.
The attack on
Turkey's press-freedom record is likely to further embarrass the country's Islamic-leaning government, which this week takes over the six-month rotating chair of the Council of Europe, the Continent's top human-rights body. Foreign Minister Ahmet
Davutoglu has hailed that development as testament to the level of democracy in Turkey.
But according to Turkish and international press watchdogs, media freedoms—a key right underpinning democratic systems—are getting
significantly worse in Turkey. Reporters without Borders this year ranked Turkey 138th in terms of media freedom, out of 178 countries—down from 98th out of 167 in 2005.
The Justice Ministry, in written answers to questions, said, Turkey
is a democratic state, governed by the rule of law, in which press freedoms are guaranteed by the constitution. But the ministry acknowledged that the rise in cases was a problem. At this moment, our ministry is preparing a draft that foresees the
amending of some articles concerning the press in the Turkish Penal Code, the Justice Ministry wrote, singling out the articles on secrecy of investigations, personal privacy and the attempt to affect a fair trial.
The ministry also noted that
in 2008 it amended the penal code's Article 301, which penalized anyone who publicly denigrated Turkishness, the military, courts or government. Ethnic Armenian journalist Hrant Dink was prosecuted under Article 301 in 2006, and was assassinated
soon afterward. Since 2008, prosecutors need permission from the Justice Ministry to open a case under Article 301, and new prosecutions have come to a near halt as a result.
A Turkish court has sentenced the trigger-man in the 2007 murder of International Press Institute (IPI) World Press Freedom Hero Hrant Dink to almost 23 years in prison.
A juvenile court in Istanbul imposed nearly the maximum sentence on
ultranationalist Ogun Samast, who was 17 at the time of Dink's killing, after convicting him of premeditated murder and carrying an unlicensed gun Samast gunned down Dink, the editor-in-chief of Armenian-Turkish newspaper Agos, in broad daylight outside
of Dink's office in Istanbul.
Dink had received numerous death threats from Turkish nationalists who viewed his journalism as treacherous. He had also faced legal problems for denigrating Turkishness under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code in
his articles about the massacre of Armenians during the First World War.
IPI Director Alison Bethel McKenzie said: We welcome the conviction and sentence of Mr. Dink's murderer, and we hope it brings a measure of closure to his family.
Nevertheless, we call on Turkish authorities to hold all those involved in this heinous crime accountable, from those who facilitated it to the masterminds who ordered it.
A hearing is currently scheduled this Friday in the trial of 18 other
defendants charged with involvement in the murder. Their cases were separated from the case against Samast due to his age at the time of the slaying.
A court in Turkey has sentenced a man to life in prison
for instigating the 2007 killing of prominent Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink.
The judge sentenced Yasin Hayal to life but acquitted 19 others of a charge of being part of a terrorist group. His teenage killer, Ogun Samast, was jailed for
22 years last year.
After the verdict, a crowd of about 500 people including members of Dink's family marched to the spot where he was shot dead to protest at what they said was state collusion.
Dink's supporters say they have uncovered
evidence that suggests involvement by state officials and police in his murder. But, they say, repeated requests to have those officials investigated have been ignored, and in some cases important evidence has been destroyed.
Nagehan Alci is a young Turkish journalist who writes a column for the mainstream daily Aksam and appears regularly prominent on news channels, including CNN Turk. She is, by all definitions, a secular liberal. Yet Mrs. Alci said something on TV last
week that enraged millions of secular Turks. During a discussion on Turkish political history, she referred to Ataturk, Turkey's founder father, as a ' dictator'.
Then it took less than a day for a campaign to culminate against her in
the media. The National Party, a die-hard defender of the Ataturk cult, called on the whole Turkish nation to protest this insult. Kemalist columnists in various papers wrote angry pieces that bashed Alci and passionately argued why Ataturk, the Supreme
Leader, was never a dictator.
Moreover, a Turkish prosecutor initiated an investigation into Alci's comment for possible violation of the Law to Protect Ataturk. It is very probable, in other words, that Alci might be tried for insulting Ataturk,
which is a serious crime in Turkey that can put you in jail for six years.
The funny thing, of course, is that the term dictator is not an insult but a political definition, and Ataturk really fits into that quite nicely. From 1925, when he
initiated the single party regime, to his death in 1938, he ruled Turkey with the perfect dictatorial style: he banned all opposition parties, closed down even civil society organizations (from Sufi orders to freemasons), and did not allow a single
critical voice in the media. You just need Politics 101 to call this regime a dictatorship.
Of course, Ataturk cannot be considered in the same camp with the more notorious dictators of his age, such as Hitler or Stalin, who were ruthless
mass-murderers. When compared to such figures, Ataturk was a very mild autocrat. Hence historian Ahmet Kuyas,, who has genuine sympathy for Ataturk and his heritage, argues that he must be called a good dictator. Yet a dictator, nonetheless.
Censorship is unacceptable and obstructive, not only in literature, but also in the arts, media, politics and other fields, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan spouted in an interview with The Istanbul Review magazine. He claimed:
Freedom of expression is a field we are very keen on, one the standards of which we raise with each passing day. We have defended and we will keep on defending the expression of opinions with utmost freedom [...BUT...] given that they do not interfere with others' area of freedom, not violating individual rights and freedoms by insulting.
Not only in our youth, also in our recent history [err... yesterday, last week, last month, last year, last decade and last century], we have experienced these pressures intimately. I am a politician who has been convicted
because I cited a poem which is even in textbooks. I am a prime minister who knows very well what freedom of expression and freedom of opinion mean.
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been showing anything but an appreciation of the qualities of tolerance required of an EU state, but then again, he has Mrs Merkel where he wants her in a rather painful figure four leg lock.
Erdogan is threatening to jail one of his citizens for a bit of jocular lampooning on social media. The poor unfortunate victim merely posted a couple of images likening Erdogan to Gollum from the Lord of the Rings.
Turkish doctor Bilgin Çiftçi
could face a two-year jail sentence if he is found guilty of insulting the state official on social media -- a court has been tasked with deeming whether or not the comparison to Gollum is indeed an insult.
An Turkish court has found the well known model, Merve Buyuksarac, guilty of insulting a public official, after she shared a poem on her Instagram account in 2014 that was deemed insulting to Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the country's president. She was given a
14 month suspended prison sentence.
Ms Buyuksarac was one of thousands of people to share the poem, which did not mention Mr Erdogan - who was then prime minister - by name, but alluded to a corruption scandal that allegedly involved his family.
Her lawyer, Emre Telci, said he would file a formal objection to the verdict and appeal her case at the European Court of Justice. Telci said:
These insult trials are being initiated in series, they are being filed
automatically. Merve was prosecuted for sharing a posting that did not belong to her.
The case against Ms Buyuksarac is one of almost 2,000 defamation suits that have been brought against critics of Erdogan since he became president
in 2014. The trials have targeted journalists, academics and even schoolchildren. Free speech advocates say the law is being used aggressively to silence and intimidate critics.
A Turkish man has been found guilty of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for likening him to the Gollum character from the Lord of the Rings .
A court gave Rifat Cetin a suspended one-year jail sentence and stripped him of parental
He has insisted his images, comparing Erdogan with the grotesque-looking Gollum in 2014, were harmless. In 2014, Cetin published on Facebook three photos of Erdogan, then a prime minister, beside three pictures of Gollum with
similar facial expressions.
Article 299 of the Turkish penal code states that anybody who insults Turkey's president can face a prison term of up to four years.
However, Cetin said he would appeal because Erdogan was not president at the
time the pictures were published, Turkish media report.
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he is dropping all lawsuits against those charged with insulting him. Speaking at an event in Ankara Erdogan said he was withdrawing all the lawsuits for insults against his person:
For one time only, I will be forgiving and withdrawing all cases against the many disrespects and insults that have been levelled against me.
I feel that if we do not make use of this opportunity correctly,
then it will give the people the right to hold us by the throat. So I feel that all factions of society, politicians first and foremost, will behave accordingly with this new reality, this new sensitive situation before us.
of people have been charged with insulting the president, including on social media.
Erdogan also lashed out at the west for failing to show solidarity with Ankara over a failed coup and said countries who worried more about the fate of the
perpetrators than Turkey's democracy could not be friends. He commented on a European lack of support against the recent coup:
Not a single person has come to give condolences either from the European Union ... or from
Erdogan's reconciliatory gesture did not receive instant goodwill for the dictatorial
president. A German satirical magazine mocked Turkish President's post-coup crackdowns by publishing a cover showing a sausage photoshopped over his groin area. The front page reads:
Erdogan's stressed: Even his penis
is staging a putsch.
On its Facebook page, the magazine has advised fans to buy the August issue before the Chancellor Tayyip Merkel bans Titanic.
Political censorship has also reared its head in the west due to the shear
number of Turks living in Europe. Turkey has condemned a German court decision banning president Recep Tayyip Erdogan from addressing his supporters by video link at a rally of tens of thousands of Cologne.
Tensions have been running high among
Germany's three million-strong Turkish population in the wake of last month's failed coup and authorities deployed 2,700 police officers on the streets of the Rhineland city on Sunday to keep the peace. Amid fears that the crowds could be riled by live
screenings of speeches from Turkey by politicians including Erdogan, Germany's constitutional court banned an application for such broadcasts.
A statement from the Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said the ban was unacceptable .
More than ever
before, Turks all over the world have seen their diaspora communities divided between supporters and critics of Erdogan.
At around half a million people, the Netherlands has one of the largest Turkish communities in Europe. In the days after the
coup, thousands of Dutch Turks took to the streets in several cities to show their support for the Turkish president. Turks critical of the Erdogan government had told media that they're afraid to express their opinions due to rising tensions.
People suspected of being supporters of the opposition Gulen movement, led by Erdogan's US-based opponent and preacher Fethullah Gulen, which has been accused of being behind the coup attempt, have been threatened and physically assaulted in the streets. The mayor of Rotterdam, a city with a large Turkish community, urged Dutch-Turks to remain calm and ordered increased police protection of Gulen-aligned Turkish institutions.
Offsite Article: President Erdogan's attempts to silence Turkish satirists not working
"The legal assault on cartoonists in Turkey has really been
unprecedented over the past few years under Erdogan. One cartoonist, Musa Kart , was sued by Erdogan for a 2004 drawing that portrayed the Turkish president as a kitten and for another cartoon that portrayed him as a bank robber. "[Kart] told me
that's there's no serious journalist or cartoonist who doesn't who doesn't have a case against him or her in the country.