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Turkey drops controversial charges on Novelist
by Amin George Forji
2006-09-25 08:21:16
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Elif Shafak was charged for insulting Turkish national Identity

A court in Istanbul on Thursday surprisingly acquitted one of the country’s best selling novelist, Elif Shafak , 35, who had been charged for insulting Turkishness in her novel, “The Bastard Of Istanbul”. The insults in question were made by her characters in the story, who condemned Turkey’s mass killings of ethnic Armenians at the close of the Ottoman Empire in 1915.The Armenians believe that those killings in fact constituted a genocide, and demands that Turkey apologizes, and redress its past wrongs. Turkey has traditionally rejected such claims of genocide as baseless.

ovi_shaffak02In the novel, Elif Shafak uses fictional characters to satirize the genocide of Armenians by Ottoman Turks.

By Article 301 of Turkey penal code, it is a crime to insult “Turkishness”.The section punishes the crime with up to three years imprisonment for what it terms: "denigrating Turkish national identity".

The trial was closely watched by the European Commission, who earlier indicated that it will serve as a veritable test of freedom in Turkey. The European Union says the controversial Turkish law seriously violates the freedom of speech rights. The commission while qualifying the Istanbul acquittal decision “good news”, requested that Turkey use this opportunity to scrap off the “bad law”, under which the artistv was prosecuted.

"The Commission welcomes this judgement. This is obviously good news." Spokeswoman for EU enlargement commissioner , Oli Rehn told reporters in Brussels.

Speaking earlier, Krisztina Nagy, EU spokeswoman however expressed caution and skepticism about the decision

"The fact remains that (Turkey's courts) established a restrictive interpretation of article 301 of the penal code which is not in line with the European Court of Human Rights and European standards of freedom of expression," Nagy warned.

Turkey is seeking admission into the EU, and is presently already undergoing membership talks. But the ban on Turkishness is seen as one of the major obstacles in joining the 25 members union.

The Istanbul court, after a 40 minutes deliberation, decided that there was lack of ample evidence to prove that Ms Shafak in fact "denigrated Turkish national identity" in her novel.

While welcoming the decision, the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that the government will consider amending that section 0f the law in future.

"The ruling party and the opposition can sit down together again to discuss this issue as laws are not eternal," Erdogan declared.

Shafak was exempted from attending the court hearing because she gave birth to her first daughter just five days ago. Speaking after the court decision, she said she was very delighted with the decision.

"I'm very happy with the outcome but only on a personal basis. As long as 301 is out there and interpreted or misinterpreted like that there'll be many other cases like this ... This is not the last one," Reuters quoted her as saying.


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Ergotelina2006-09-28 15:49:10
Fortunatelly for her

She lives in USA

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