30 January 2007

1387) Political scientist Oran: We already see 301's effects in atmosphere praising violence

A controversial academic, apparently out of favor with state institutions since he advocated further rights for non-Muslim minorities in a state-ordered report, yesterday said no good can come from Turkish Penal Code (TCK) Article 301. . .

"The article should be completely annulled because the problem isn't the article itself but its implementation," said Ankara University political scientist Baskin Oran, using the words of those defending the article, but reaching an opposite conclusion.

Apart from several politicians arguing that the article sets up a wall against insults aimed at the Turkish state and its institutions, Justice Minister Cemil Cicek laid the blame on the judiciary, saying that judges should adopt new insights into the article's interpretation and implementation.

Cicek on Sunday also responded to accusations that the government lacks the will to change the article, but is mentioning it to satisfy the European Union, which has been pushing Turkey to annul or at least change the article to achieve a fair and transparent penal code.

Cicek said that the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party government has made changes to the article twice and added that if another change is necessary the government will not shrink from its responsibility.

He also reiterated his view that several EU member countries also have similar articles. "Society has split in three over the article," said Cicek, adding, "One group says the article should be annulled altogether, one says it should be kept with a couple of changes, and the other even goes as far as saying that the penalties should be increased."

He said he received 12 advisory offers for change so far, adding that the government has no bias on the change.

However Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, at a press conference prior to his departure for Sudan on Sunday, said that there is no way that the article can be annulled, but that the government is open to any suggestions for change.

"I call upon the academics who want to see the article annulled to reconsider their views, their suggestions are not viable. There are several countries with articles similar to our 301," said Erdogan.

He also criticized civil groups for the current wide disagreements between them. "I personally held meetings with several civil groups over the article but I saw that they even cannot come to terms with each other," the premier said.

Baskin applies to prosecutor over threats

Oran, after applying to the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor's Office regarding a threatening letter, said that he has been receiving such letters since his report about minority groups' rights, which sparked tense debates.

"There's no need to wait to see the implementation of the article under such an atmosphere praising violence. We are experiencing its practices on a daily basis," Oran added. He also stood trial on charges of spreading discriminatory propaganda and provoking hatred along with another academic, but the charges were dropped.

Oran, accompanied by officials and members of several human rights groups, told reporters that he applied to the prosecutor's office late in 2004 over two threats but his complaint was dropped.

He also handed out copies of letters he was sent. He said that he asked Public Prosecutor Hasan Dursun to prosecute the senders of the letters and emails but added that the prosecutor had asked if he could reach a compromise with those threatening him.

Oran is the third public figure to apply to the prosecutor over threats or make public threatening messages after Armenian-origin Turkish journalist Hrant Dink was killed.

Dink was gunned down by a teenager who reportedly wanted to punish the journalist for his views.

Orhan Pamuk, the Nobel Prize-winning Turkish author, said he has also been receiving threats. He was given state protection after Dink's murder. Both stood trial under Article 301 on charges of "insulting Turkishness."

The New Anatolian / Ankara
30 January 2007

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