Turkey Sentences Armenian Writer

(BBC)–A journalist in Turkey has been found guilty of insulting Turkish identity and given a suspended six-month jail sentence by a court in Istanbul.

Hrant Dink–of Armenian-Turkish descent–wrote a newspaper column which he argued was aimed at improving relations between Turkey and Armenia. He is the editor of a bilingual Armenian-Turkish newspaper–Agos.

The prosecution interpreted part of the article as an insult. A paragraph in the article calling on Armenia’s to symbolically reject "the adulterated part of their Turkish blood" was taken as offensive.

The judge ruled that Dink’s newspaper column implied that Turkish blood was dirty.

The verdict follows criminal code reforms as Turkey seeks to join the EU. The reforms were intended to improve freedom of speech in Turkey.

The BBC’s Sarah Rainsford said the judge ordered a suspended sentence as it was Dink’s first offense.

But the nationalist lawyers who brought the case were disappointed. "There was an obvious humiliation and result of this case should be at least two and a half years or three years criminal charge," one said.

Dink’s lawyer Fethiye Cetin said the ruling showed how little had changed under Turkey’s new criminal code–despite international and internal pressure.

Human rights lawyers believe his case shows there are still no-go areas for discussion here and the new laws leave substantial room for interpretation.

Dink says he will appeal the ruling. But if he cannot clear his name–he will leave the country. "If I’m guilty of insulting a nation," he told the BBC–"then it’s a matter of honor not to live here."

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