Turkish Court Overturns Armenian Journalist’s Appeal

(AFP/BBC)–A Turkish court in Ankara rejected Monday an appeal by a prominent Armenian journalist against a ruling that found him guilty of insulting Turkishness.

Hrant Dink–publisher of the bilingual Turkish-Armenian newspaper Agos–was sentenced to a suspended six-month sentence in October by a court in Istanbul for an article published in February 2004.

The article about the genocide of Armenia’s during World War I in Turkey called on Armenia’s "to turn now to the new blood of an independent Armenia–which alone is capable of liberating the Armenian diaspora" and to reject any Turkish roots.

In February–the chief prosecutor’s office at the Appeals Court considered Dink’s case and recommended that the remarks were in no way insulting.

But now–in a surprise development–the court itself has chosen to ignore that interpretation and ruled that the substance of the charge still stands. The appeal judges in Ankara overturned the conviction due to procedural errors–Anatolia reported–adding that the case will be referred back to the Istanbul court for retrial.

It is a blow for the defense team.

The high-profile newspaper editor–whose publication Agos appears in Turkish and Armenian–was first found guilty of insulting Turkishness last year when a court ruled that his article described Turkish blood as dirty.

Dink always denied his words meant any such thing and argued his column was in fact aimed at improving the difficult relationship between Turks and Armenia’s.

The case will now go back to the local court that first heard it–and Dink could face a retrial.

He told the BBC he was extremely distressed at the news.

He has always said he would have to leave the country if the courts here could not clear his name for good.

This case is one of several similar cases in Turkey–monitored closely by EU officials concerned about limits on free speech in the country.

European Union officials have expressed serious concern about the article of law that was used against Hrant Dink and several dozen other writers here in Turkey.

Despite a series of reforms linked to Turkey’s bid for membership of the EU–it is still illegal to insult the Turkish identity–the military and the judiciary and the line between criticism and insult is often blurred.

The issue of the Armenian genocide is frequently the spark for court cases.

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