|International concern over indictment of Istanbul-based publisher|
On the same day the European Commission expressed serious concern about the capacity of certain judges and prosecutors in Turkey to comply with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) safeguards on freedom of expression , an Istanbul-based publisher has been indicted for publishing a book concerning American foreign policy.
Fatih Tas, the owner of Aram Publishing House, has been indicted under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code for 'humiliating Turkishness' and 'insulting the memory of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk', the founder of the modern Turkish Republic. The charges relate to Aram House's Turkish publication of 'Spoils of War: The Human Cost of America's Arms Trade' by John Tirman, director of the MIT Centre for International Studies. If found guilty, Tas faces up to seven years imprisonment.
In its 2005 report on Turkey's progress towards meeting EU accession criteria published yesterday, the European Commission acknowledged improvements in the field of freedom of expression but stated, "In assessing whether to bring cases which impinge on the right to freedom of expression, the judiciary should consider whether the expression incites violence, armed rebellion or enmity, what the capacity of the individual or group is to influence the public and what kind of opportunity the target of the expression has to respond."
Noam Chomsky is one of hundreds of supporters to have signed a petition protesting against the use of Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code to indict the publisher. The same publisher was indicted in 2002 on allegations of publishing 'propaganda against the indivisible unity of country, nation and the State Republic of Turkey' concerning his publication of an anthology of Noam Chomsky's essays 'American Interventionism'. KHRP and other human rights observers expressed concern at the time that, although Tas was subsequently acquitted, the original indictment nonetheless had constituted a de facto violation of freedom of expression.
The first trial is due to take place in Istanbul on 17 November 2005.
The indictment challenges the book's claim that soldiers committed human rights atrocities against people living in south-east Turkey during the 1990s, using arms acquired from the United States .
Article 301(1) has come under criticism from the European Commission and human rights observers internationally, in cases recently highlighted by the indictment of internationally renowned Turkish author Orham Pamuk.
Kerim Yildiz, Executive Director of KHRP, says, "We urge the case against Aram Publishing House to be dropped, and for the relevant legislation to be repealed. It is imperative that freedom of expression is ensured for all citizens in Turkey in compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights."