File:Protest against fascist Turkish policy on Non-Muslims.jpg

Demonstration against Article 301 in front of the Turkish Embassy in Germany.

Article 301 is a controversial article of the Turkish penal code, taking effect on June 1, 2005, and introduced as part of a package of penal-law reform in the process preceding the opening of negotiations for Turkish membership of the European Union (EU), in order to bring Turkey up to the Union standards.[1][2] Before the amendments made on April 30, 2008 it used to make it a crime to insult "Turkishness". Since this Article became law, charges have been brought in more than 60 cases, some of which are high-profile.[3] Büyük Hukukçular Birliği ("Great Jurists Union") headed by Kemal Kerinçsiz, a Turkish lawyer, is "behind nearly all of Article 301 trials".[4] Kerinçsiz himself is responsible for forty of the trials,[5] including the high-profile ones.

On April 30, 2008 a series of changes were made on the Article 301, including a new amendment which makes it obligatory to get the approval of the minister of justice to file a case.[6] This change was made to prevent the possible misuse of the article, especially against high profile cases, filling up the legal holes of the older version.[7]

What was covered by Article 301[edit | edit source]

Before amendments were made to Article 301 on April 30, 2008, the article stated the following:[8]

  1. A person who publicly denigrates Turkishness, the Republic or the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, shall be punishable by imprisonment of between six months and three years.
  2. A person who publicly denigrates the Government of the Republic of Turkey, the judicial institutions of the State, the military or security organizations shall be punishable by imprisonment of between six months and two years.
  3. In cases where denigration of Turkishness is committed by a Turkish citizen in another country the punishment shall be increased by one third.
  4. Expressions of thought intended to criticize shall not constitute a crime.

High-profile cases[edit | edit source]

File:Orhan Pamuk3.jpg

Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk was brought to trial regarding statements about the Armenian Genocide.

Article 301 has been used to bring charges against writer Orhan Pamuk for stating, in an interview with a Swiss magazine, that "Thirty thousand Kurds and a million Armenians were killed in these lands and nobody but me dares to talk about it". The charges were later dropped.[9][10] Another high-profile case to result from this legislation involved the writer and journalist Perihan Magden, who was prosecuted for a December 2005 newspaper column in which she strongly defended the principle of conscientious objection and the refusal to perform military service. In response to this column, the Turkish military filed a complaint against her.[11] In the trial, which took place on July 27, 2006, she was acquitted when the court ruled that her opinions were covered by the freedom of expression and were not a crime under the Turkish penal code.[12] If convicted she could have faced three years' imprisonment.

In July 2006 the Istanbul public prosecutor's office prepared an indictment alleging that the statements in the book Manufacturing Consent by Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman constituted a breach of the article.[13] The publisher and editors of the Turkish translation, as well as the translator, were brought to trial accordingly, but acquitted in December 2006.[14]

In 2006 Elif Şafak also faced charges of "insulting Turkishness" because of her latest novel, The Bastard of Istanbul.[3] The case was thrown out by the judge after a demand by the prosecutor for the case to be dropped.[15]

In 2006, the well-known Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink was prosecuted under the Article 301 for insulting Turkishness, and received a six month suspended sentence. He was subsequently assassinated by radical nationalists. Orhan Pamuk declared, "In a sense, we are all responsible for his death. However, at the very forefront of this responsibility are those who still defend article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code. Those who campaigned against him, those who portrayed this sibling of ours as an enemy of Turkey, those who painted him as a target, they are the most responsible in this."[16] Hrant Dink was posthumously acquitted of the charges on June 14, 2007, in a retrial ordered by the Court of Appeals.[17]

Publisher Ragıp Zarakolu is on trial under Article 301 as well as for “insulting the legacy of Atatürk” under Law 5816.[18]

In 2007, Arat Dink (Hrant Dink's son) and Serkis Seropyan were convicted to one-year suspended sentences under Article 301 for printing Dink's claims that the killings of Armenians in 1915 was a genocide.[19]

Other high profile incidents[edit | edit source]

In December 2005 Joost Lagendijk, a member of the Dutch Green Left party and the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs, chairman of the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee, and a staunch supporter of Turkish EU membership, visited Turkey to attend the trial against Orhan Pamuk. In his speech he commented on the Şemdinli incident and criticized the Turkish military for seeking to maintain its political influence through the continuous guerrilla war with the PKK.[2] Greater Jurists Union (Template:Lang-tr), the same group that filed a complaint against Orhan Pamuk, filed charges against Joost Lagendijk for violating Article 301 by insulting the Turkish army. The prosecutor, however, declined to prosecute, referring to the Turkish constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as a judgement by the European Court of Human Rights concerning the interpretation of that Convention.[20]

Members of the Strong Turkey Party organized a campaign of civil disobedience against the article called Try me too 301 (Template:Lang-tr). 301 members of the party knowingly violated the article 301 and filed complaints against themselves. The prosecutor refused to file charges.

Criticism and impact of the article[edit | edit source]

In its short life the article has been heavily criticized, both in Turkey and outside.[21] A criticism heard in Turkey, and also voiced by some outside, is that it has turned into a tool of the nationalist "old guard", who, so is claimed, use it to press charges against people of international renown, not to stifle dissenting opinions but with the aim of thwarting the admission process to the EU.[22][2][23] Novelist Elif Şafak claims the Article has a chilling effect on free expression, notwithstanding its fourth clause.[24] It is too early to tell how this is going to be interpreted in cassation (last-instance review) by the Court of Appeals. Turkey accepts the European Court of Human Rights' decisions as overriding higher court decision, and ratified international treaties as overriding national law.

In their statement "Turkey: Article 301 is a threat to freedom of expression and must be repealed now!",[25] human rights watchdog group Amnesty International claims that "Article 301 poses a direct threat to freedom of expression, as enshrined in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and in Article 10 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR)."

Current status[edit | edit source]

Following the murder of Hrant Dink, Turkish deputy prime minister and foreign minister Abdullah Gül declared, "With its current state, there are certain problems with article 301. We see now that there are changes which must be made to this law."[26]

On April 30, 2008, article 301 was amended by the Parliament of Turkey, with the following changes:[27]

  • replacement of the word "Turkishness" with the phrase "Turkish nation" (in the phrase "insulting Turkishness").
  • reduction of the maximum penalty from three years to two.
  • requiring permission of the justice minister to file a case. The permission procedure of Article 301 will be carried out by the Directorate General of the Penal Affairs of the Ministry of Justice where competent judges are assigned. Even if a criminal investigation is launched upon the permission of the Minister of Justice, the prosecutor still has discretionary power to decide not to prosecute. Such a decision was made in the July 2008 case against İbrahim Tığ, the editor of the daily Bölge Haber.[28][29] The governor of Zonguldak filed a complaint citing "open denigration of the government" (“T.C. Hükümetini Alenen Aşağılamak”) after Tığ wrote a column accusing the ruling Justice and Development Party of selling the country's assets though privatization.[30] As of July 2008, six of the seven 301 cases that have been considered by the ministry were rejected for prosecution.[28]

According to the Turkish legal system, international conventions on human rights automatically become part of the national legal order without additional transposition once they are adopted by the Parliament. Hence, international human rights instruments to which Turkey is party have to be taken into consideration by judges and prosecutors in dealing with cases in accordance with Article 90 of the Constitution.Template:Fact Therefore, prosecutors are strongly encouraged to directly apply the landmark decisions of the European Court of Human Rights and particularly the Handyside v. UK case.Template:Fact Furthermore, the statement of the suspect cannot be taken before the permission of the Minister of Justice in order not to discredit the suspect in the eyes of the public.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]


External links[edit | edit source]

de:§ 301 (Türkisches Strafgesetzbuch)

tr:Türk Ceza Kanunu 301. maddesi

  1. Turkey's new penal code touches raw nerves EurActiv 2 June 2005, updated 14 November 2005.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Justus Leicht Turkey: Court drops prosecution of writer Orhan Pamuk. February 6, 2006, World Socialist Web Site (published by the ICFI)
  3. 3.0 3.1 Lea, Richard. "In Istanbul, a writer awaits her day in court", The Guardian, July 24, 2006.
  4. In Turkey, ultra-nationalist lawyer wins supporters as enthusiasm for the EU falls
  5. Template:Cite news
  6. CafeSiyaset: 301 yeni hali ile yürürlüğe girdi ("New version of Article 301 takes effect") Template:Tr icon
  7. Turkey: Update on Campaign to Abolish Article 301 - English Pen
  8. Turkey: Article 301 is a threat to freedom of expression and must be repealed now! Amnesty International Public Statement 1 December 2005
  9. Rainsford, Sarah. Author's trial set to test Turkey BBC 14 December 2005.
  10. Court drops Turkish writer's case BBC 23 January 2006
  11. Pamuk, Orhan. A question of conscience, The Guardian Unlimited, Books Section, June 3, 2006.
  12. Template:Cite news
  13. "Noam Chomsky'nin kitabına 'Türklüğü aşağılamak'tan dava" Milliyet Online, July 4, 2006, accessed July 4, 2006.
  14. Turks acquitted over Chomsky book, BBC News, December 20, 2006.
  15. "Judge throws out charges against Turkish novelist ", The Guardian, September 22, 2006.
  16. Template:Cite news.
  17. Template:Cite news
  18. Template:Cite news
  19. BBC, Pair guilty of 'insulting Turkey', 11 October 2007
  20. Vrijheid van meningsuiting reden Lagendijk niet te vervolgen ("Freedom of expression ground not to prosecute Lagendijk"), in Dutch. February 8, 2006, Web site of Green Left
  21. Template:Cite news
  22. Template:Cite news
  23. Edemariam, Aida. Wrestling the Turk's dual spirits. April 15, 2006, The Age
  24. Europe Launches Criticism of Law Targeting Journalists in Turkey; Media Victory in High-Profile Terror Case. November 10, 2006, CNN
  25. Turkey: Article 301 is a threat to freedom of expression and must be repealed now! Amnesty International Public Statement 1 December 2005
  26. Template:Cite news
  27. Template:Cite news
  28. 28.0 28.1 Template:Cite news
  29. Template:Cite news
  30. Template:Cite news
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