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Cablegate: Armenian Conference Fallout: Prosecutors Target

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS ISTANBUL 002058

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/SE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM TU
SUBJECT: ARMENIAN CONFERENCE FALLOUT: PROSECUTORS TARGET
JOURNALISTS FOR INSULTING THE JUDICIARY

REF: A. ISTANBUL 2020

B. ISTANBUL 1680
C. ISTANBUL 1780

1. (U) Adding to the growing list of publishers and writers
being taken to criminal court (ref A), an Istanbul prosecutor
filed charges December 2 against five prominent Turkish
journalists for their articles criticizing the September 2005
Istanbul court decision that granted an injunction blocking
the holding of that month's "Alternative Armenian Conference"
(ref B) at two local universities. (Note: the conference was
ultimately held at a venue not covered by the court
injunction. End Note.) Milliyet's Hasan Cemal, along with
Radikal Editor Ismet Berkan and columnists Murat Belge, Haluk
Sahin and Erol Katircioglu, wrote critical columns and
articles at the time, terming the postponement order an
attack on academic freedom and a travesty of justice, among
other things.

2. (U) Ismet Berkan is being charged under Article 288 of
the penal code, which makes it illegal to make a statement
about a case with the object of "influencing" any party to
it, but the other writers are the latest victims of the penal
code's infamous Article 301, which criminalizes insulting the
state or state organs (the judiciary in this case). The
journalists' trial is due to commence February 7, 2006; the
defendents face sentences ranging from six months to ten
years if convicted. Press reports indicate that the cases
were brought to the Istanbul prosecutor by nationalist lawyer
Kemal Kerincsiz and his Union of Turkish Jurists, who were
behind the court's September postponement order. Kerinsiz
and his group have also filed an appeal seeking a harsher
sentence in the case of journalist Hrant Dink's conviction
for insulting "Turkishness" (ref C), and they have been in
the forefront of recent demonstrations at the Ecumenical
Patriarchate, as well.

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3. (SBU) Comment: These latest targets are all prominent and
well-known commentators (as well as regular Consulate and
Embassy contacts), and their cases are likely to assume a
high public profile. Though no reminder was needed, given
the upcoming case of Orhan Pamuk (which begins on December
16) and other recent cases, the indictments highlight once
again the extent to which freedom of expression is
constrained in Turkey. End Comment.
JONES

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