Turkey opens New Case against Journalist

ISTANBUL (AP/Reuters)–A Turkish prosecutor has opened a new case against one of the country’s leading Turkish-Armenia’s for commen’s he made about an earlier prosecution. Hrant Dink–editor of the bilingual Armenian-Turkish newspaper Agos–was convicted in October of "denigrating Turkish identity," and received a six-month suspended sentence. The case became one of several prominent prosecutions over speech that prompted questions about Turkey’s dedication to democracy from officials of the European Union–which Turkey is trying to join.

Defense lawyer Fethiye Cetin said on Monday that Dink now faces charges of attempting to influence the judiciary for saying that he would leave the country if the case against him was not dropped.

Cetin and Dink said they had not received formal notice of the new charges.

A group of Turkish writers–academics–journalists–and artists called on the government Monday to scrap the law making it a crime to insult Turkey–"Turkishness," or state institutions.

Three other journalists were also charged with trying to influence the judiciary after they criticized Dink’s conviction.

The nationalist Lawyer’s Unity Association asked the court to bring the case against the four journalists–who face jail terms of nine months to 4 years–if convicted.

"The case has been opened because Dink and the other writers of the Armenian Agos publication have criticized a former sentence of the court in an effort to prevent a just lawsuit–which is against Article 288 of the code," said the leader of the association–Kemal Kerincsiz.

Dink told the Anka news agency that it was his right to criticize the earlier verdict–adding that he would take the case to the European Court of Human Rights if the Court of Appeals upholds the court ruling.

Dink was convicted in October of insulting the country’s national identity in a series of articles calling on diaspora Armenia’s to stop focusing on Turks and to turn instead to the welfare of Armenia.

An editor at Agos said Dink told Armenia’s that their enmity toward the Turks "has a poisoning effect in your blood" and the court took the remark out of context to mean that Dink believed Turkish blood was poison.

Dink said at the time that he would appeal the ruling and later said that he would leave the country if he did not succeed.

Last Thursday–the Istanbul court fined a writer for breaching Article 301 in a book on the evacuation of Kurdish–Armenian–and Syriac Christian villages in the past 100 years–and a publisher for an article on Turkey’s Iraq policy.

The country’s most famous novelist–Orhan Pamuk–was also charged with insulting Turkey–for telling a Swiss newspaper in February that "30,000 Kurds and 1 million Armenia’s were killed in these lands–and nobody but me dares to talk about it."

European officials say that such court cases are likely to hinder Turkey’s progress toward full membership.

Turkey’s government has indicated that it has no plans to change the law.

"Freedoms are not limitless; in freedom there’s a definite limit," Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last week.

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