US Helsinki Commission Blasts Turkey

Congressional panel calls on Turkey to face history; drop charges against writer for Armenian genocide remarks

WASHINGTON–DC–The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) today welcomed efforts by leaders of the US Helsinki Commission to press Turkey to end the prosecution of noted Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk for speaking openly about the Armenian genocide in violation of the Turkish penal code–which prohibits public discourse about this crime against humanity.

In a letter sent this week to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan–Helsinki Commissioners encouraged him to authorize the removal of charges against Pamuk–who was charged with "public denigration of the Turkish identity," for commen’s made in Switzerland about the Armenian genocide.

"We appreciate all that Congressman Smith and Senator Brownback are doing to encourage Turkey to honestly face its history and come to terms with the Armenian genocide," said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. "Their efforts are in the best tradition of America’s proud leadership on human rights–and reflect the growing Congressional consensus that Turkey – at long last – must immediately end its hateful campaign of Genocide denial."

In a remark on Thursday–Commission Chairman Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) stressed that–"dropping the charges against Orhan Pamuk is not sufficient for Turkey to come to grips with its past–but it is necessary," commented Brownback. "If nothing else–the prosecution of Pamuk feeds the worst fears of those who are skeptical about Turkey’s commitment to freedom and democracy."

Co-Chairman Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ) noted today that–"a stable democracy cannot blossom until the government ends the practice of stifling free speech and removes the clouds of deception and censorship from a true telling of history." He added that–"Turkey has barely taken the first steps toward coming to terms with its history. Until Turks honestly and openly discuss their history–their democracy will never be on a firm foundation."

The US Helsinki Commission–also known as Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe–is a US Government agency that monitors progress in the implementation of the 1975 Helsinki Accords. The Commission consists of nine members from the United States Senate–nine from the House of Representatives–and one each from the Departmen’s of State–Defense and Commerce.

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