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Case against Orhan Pamuk dropped

23 January 2006
Today’s news that the case against Orhan Pamuk for "denigrating Turkishness" has been thrown out by a court in Istanbul comes as small consolation for the many other individuals in Turkey awaiting hearings of their cases under the same article Article 301 of the new penal code. Amnesty International opposes the article on the grounds that it poses a grave threat to freedom of expression, a freedom that Turkey, as a state party to both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, has a duty to uphold.

Article 301 is worded in such broad and nebulous terms that it can be (and indeed is being) used to criminalize a wide range of peacefully-expressed dissenting opinions. Amnesty International has received reports of all sorts of people being prosecuted under the article since it came into force on 1 June 2005. These people include not only writers and journalists, but also publishers and human rights defenders. Even two former members of the Turkish Human Rights Advisory Council have not escaped its clutches for publishing a report on minority and cultural rights as commissioned by the Prime Minister himself.

Orhan Pamuk’s case was reportedly dropped after the Ministry of Justice wrote to the relevant court, which had been awaiting the authorization of the ministry, declaring that under the new law it no longer had any legal competence to give such authorization. Although this is clearly good news for Orhan Pamuk, it leaves unanswered the question of what will happen to those other cases once the issue fades from the media spotlight. Dropping cases one by one is clearly both untenable and unsatisfactory; these cases should not have been opened in the first place. Amnesty International urges the Turkish authorities to take seriously their commitments to freedom of expression and abolish Article 301 in its entirety.

From: Campaigner, Turkey Team, Amnesty International Secretariat.

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