Turkish Dissident Criticizes EU’s Cold Shoulder to Turkish Intellectuals

BRUSSELS–Renowned Turkish publisher and dissident, Ragip Zarakolu was recently in Brussels for high level meetings with several European officials where he criticized the European Union’s abandonment of Turkish intellectuals still being tried under a notorious law criminalizing, among other things, discussion of the Armenian Genocide, reported the European Armenian Federation (EAF).

In the framework of the meetings, organized by the EAF, Zarakolu spoke with members of the European Commission, representatives of the French EU presidency, and members of the European Parliament, including deputies from the EP’s Foreign Affairs Committee, and the chairperson of the EU-Turkey interparliamentary delegation.

During the meetings, Zarakolu slammed the EU’s failure to condemn the deteriorating condition of freedom of expression in Turkey following the Turkish government’s ill-conceived cosmetic reforms of Article 301 of the penal code.

Zarakolu was recently honored by the International Publishers Association with its prestigious Freedom of Expression award.

According to the dissident, people who publish material on the Armenian Genocide today are condemned in Turkey, while in prior years people were prosecuted but eventually acquitted.

He also explained that articles in Turkey’s anti-terror law are increasingly being used against the mass media, especially when the Kurdish question is tackled in term of political, cultural and collective rights.

Zarakolu also noted that Article 301 of the Turkish penal code, which makes it a crime to “insult” the Turkish nation, state and government, is “completely incompatible with democracy and must be completely abrogated.”

In his meetings with the chairperson of the EU-Turkey Interparliamentary Delegation, Joost Lagendijk, Zarakolu said that “the European program which aims at improving the judiciary system have worked for magistrates from Eastern Europe but doesn’t work for Turkish magistrates,” citing as a reason for its failure the fact that Judges who had taken European training courses “today pronounce indictmen’s under article 301.”

Indecently, Lagendijk, an unconditional supporter of Turkish accession to the European Union, was among those prosecuted under Article 301.

Zarakolu, who serves as the president of the Committee for Freedom of Publication, also criticized the Turkish government’s opportunistic policy that “does not authorize prosecutions when there is a risk of harming the international image of Turkey but authorizes those “against intellectuals who are not well-known in the Western countries.

He also presented the 2008 report on freedom of expression in Turkey, published by the Turkish Association of Publishers. According to the report, official figures from the Turkish Minister of Justice reveal that prosecutions against 36 people have been authorized in accordance with article 301 since its so called “reform.”

During all his meetings, Zarakolu called on the European Union “to be firmer in its principles” and demand of Turkey “concrete improvemen’s.” He also added that the EU must adopt a “a stiffer approach” toward Turkey by criticizing the fact that it “is reluctant to make reforms” but tries to obtain “special rights in Europe.”

“We call on the European Union to give all its support to the struggle of these men and women’sdissidents’sprosecuted and threatened by the Turkish government’s complicity”, commented Tchoboian, who was present at the meetings. “The European Armenian Federation is acting in Europe in support of the important re-examination of the Human Rights situation in Turkey and Turkey’s breaches of the European Union accession criteria.”

Editor’s Note:
Ragip Zarakolu is a publisher and one of the founding members of the Turkish Association for Human Rights. He was on trial under article 301 for his publications of events in Turkish history considered taboos. He has published books on the Armenian genocide, the Kurdish question, the role of the army in political life, and torture. He was again convicted under article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code in January 2008, less than a week after it had been “reformed.” Prosecutions under article 301 have been authorized against more than 30 dissidents since then.

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