Sunday, April 20, 2008

Can Article 301 Prosecutions Become Even More Political?

Publisher Ragıp Zarakolu is currently charged under Article 301 for insulting "Turkishness" thanks to his publication of a translation of George Jerjian’s The Truth Will Set Us Free. According to Today's Zaman, the book is a call for reconciliation between Turks and Armenians and tells the story of how a Turk saved the writer’s Armenian grandmother. The newspaper's profile of Zarakolu includes the publisher's skepticism that reform to Article 301 will amount to anything.

Indeed, Zarakolu hints that the reform measure might even foment the zealotry of the prosecutors who are pursuing his case. One of the provisions of the new law currently awaiting consideration by the parliament's General Assembly is a reduction of the maximum sentence allowed under the criminal code from three to two years so that the sentence might be suspended. Sentences can only be suspended for prison terms less than two years. Individuals found guilty and sentenced under Article 301 are frequently sentenced for periods of less than two years and often serve suspended sentences. Zarakolu is serving such a sentence right now for another piece of journalism. According to Zarakolu, although his sentence would be eligible for suspension under the new law, the fact that he is already serving a suspended sentence combined with the intense political climate might well land him in prison. Remarkable is the fatalism the publisher has adopted, but, really, what is the man to do?

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