BRUSSELS–Europe’s Armenian National Committee, the European Armenian Federation for Justice and Democracy, has expressed its concern to the European Commission for failing to condemn the recent conviction of Turkish publisher Ragip Zarakolu, following his publication of a book by on the Armenian Genocide.
In its letter to the EU Commissioner for Enlargement, Olli Rehn, the European Armenian Federation stated that the Commission’s failure to react to Zarakolu’s conviction sends a political message to Turkey.
On 17 June, an Istanbul court found Zarakolu guilty of "insulting the institutions of the Turkish Republic" by publishing a Turkish translation of "The Truth Will Set Us Free" by British author George Jerjian. The book covers the Genocide of Armenia’s in 1915. Zarakolu was charged under Article 301 of the Turkish penal code, which was amended earlier this year to reduce the maximum prison sentence from three years to two. The crime of "insulting Turkishness" was also changed to "insulting the Turkish nation."
In its letter to the European Commission, the European Armenian Federation demanded that the Commission grant Turkey a period of six months, to totally review article 301. The letter also demanded that the European Commission suggest to the Council of Europe that it cease negotiations with Turkey set for December.
The principles of freedom and democracy, which were violated with the sentencing of Zarakolu, are supposed to constitute a prerequisite for Turkey’s EU accession.
The European Armenian Federation has also informed the Council of Europe’s commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg about the Zarakolu case. The letter called Zarakolu’s conviction a "symbolic" move that would encourage the continued suppression of freedom of speech and the denial of the Genocide in Turkey.
Various OSCE representatives and prominent members of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly have condemned Zarakolu’s trial and conviction.
In its letter, the European Armenian Federation called on Hammamberg to defend and assist the convicted dissident and to work with the Turkish judiciary to reassess their stance on Human Rights in the country.
"Zarakolu’s conviction proves that [Turkey] is not ready…PACE has to adopt a resolution to restart the monitoring of this country," stated Laurent Leyliekian, Executive Director of the European Armenian Federation. "The European Commission has to suggest a moratorium on Turkey’s accession process and find the right and effective mechanisms for the protection of the freedom of speech and human rights in Turkey."