Turkish Prosecutor Says Apology Petition Legal

ANKARA (Hurriyet)–An Ankara prosecutor who argues that the Armenian apology petition campaign launched late last year is not illegal has asked the Justice Ministry to issue a written directive to that effect.

A Turkish court ruled early this month that criminal proceedings could be launched against the authors and signatories of the online petition, which apologizes to Armenia’s for “the Great Catastrophe of 1915.” The court’s decision repealed a January 26 ruling by Ankara’s prosecutor general that bringing charges against the petition’s organizers and signers would impinge on freedom of speech laws.

The "I apologize" campaign was launched last December. Though it has drawn harsh criticism within Turkey, approximately 29,000 people, including many intellectuals and journalists, have signed the petition, which reads in part: "My conscience does not accept the insensitivity showed to and the denial of the Great Catastrophe that the Armenia’s were subjected to in 1915."

A complaint was lodged against the organizers of the petition campaign almost immediately after it went public. After a preliminary inquiry, Ankara Prosecutor Nadi Turkaslan said the petition is protected as a freedom of expression and thus the organizers could not be prosecuted.

But the decision by the High Criminal Court in Sincan, on the outskirts of Ankara, overturned the prosecutor’s finding, allowing prosecutors to seek the permission of Justice Minister Mehmet Ali %u05Eahin to launch an investigation.

Charges made against the organizers will stem from Article 301 of the Turkish penal code, which criminalizes insulting Turkishness and also requires ministerial approval to start any proceedings. Prosecutor Turkaslan, in a letter to the Justice Ministry, called for a directive to annul the ruling and asked that the case be sent to the Supreme Court of Appeals.

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