624) Hrant Dink aspires to continue living in his country, Turkey

Hrant Dink aspires to continue living in his country, Turkey, and to eventually die here. However, as of yesterday, he was not sure if he could make it, as a court in the Turkish capital on Monday overturned the appeal of his conviction for “insulting Turkishness.”..

Dink, a Turkish citizen and editor of the bilingual Armenian-Turkish newspaper Agos, was convicted in July under Article 301 of the new Turkish Penal Code (TCK), which European Union officials say is incompatible with EU norms on freedom of expression.

Turkey began EU membership talks in October.

The new TCK went into effect in June, and Article 301 of this code covers the offense of denigrating the Turkish identity.

The veteran journalist was convicted and given a six-month suspended sentence for a series of articles he wrote in 2004 in which he called on the Armenian diaspora to stop focusing on the Turks and funnel attention instead on the welfare of Armenia.

Dink asserted in his articles that Armenian enmity toward the Turks “has a poisoning effect on your blood” and insisted that the court took the article out of context to mean that Turkish blood is poison.

“Those who interpret my articles with such a distorted view cannot gain credit with their interpretations of historical facts or with those so-called evidence they present to explain historical facts. The way they interpret my articles also reflects the way they interpret historical facts,” Dink yesterday said in a telephone interview with the Turkish Daily News.

“They tried to take my dignity from me before the people of Turkey. I want my dignity back.” Late in February the Supreme Court of Appeals Chief Prosecutor's Office asked the Supreme Court of Appeals' 9th Bureau to overturn the lower court decision convicting Dink, arguing that the conviction was based on “faulty assessments.” The office said the decision finding Dink guilty was based on faulty premises and that the court had committed a mistake by agreeing to list certain people as victims despite the fact that the individuals in question had not suffered any damage due to Dink's comments.

From the very first moment Dink appealed his conviction, he said he would leave the country unless his conviction were overturned. “The judicial process matters for me; the eventual ruling will make my position clearer,” Dink said.

“Whether I'm found guilty or eventually acquitted on technical reasons, the matter for me is not only about my name being cleared by the judiciary for good. It's more than that. What matters for me is my name being cleared before public opinion in Turkey, before the peoples of Turkey. I've never humiliated Turks or any other ethnicities. If I remain a person who humiliated Turkishness, and if this is registered as a fact by a judicial ruling, then…” said Dink, unable to finish his sentence, openly reflecting his distress.

“I want to stay here and continue struggling for democracy in Turkey in the literal sense.”

Armenians have long demanded that Turkey and other nations recognize the killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks at the beginning of the 20th century as genocide. In the past Turks could be prosecuted for agreeing, and a clause in the new penal code allows prosecutors to interpret statements damaging to Turkish identity as a crime.

May 3, 2006
ANKARA - Turkish Daily News


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