Freedom of Expression,  Turkey

Fazil Say: an update from PEN

I posted last year about the prosecution of pianist Fazil Say for ‘insulting Islam’.  Now English PEN reports that six members of the PEN Turkey board have been summoned for questioning by the Istanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office in connection with their support for Say.

In June 2012, PEN Turkey’s website carried a statement condemning the prosecution of the musician Fazil Say for religious defamation, in which the centre stated that ‘the international community has been put on alert in the face of fascist developments in Turkey’.

Depending on the outcome of the investigation, PEN Turkey board members may face charges under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (publicly denigrating Turkish ethnicity, the government of Turkey, its institutions or its military/security forces), which carries a prison sentence of six months to two years. In addition, board members may face charges of ‘attempting to influence the judicial process’ under Article 288 of the Turkish Penal Code.

As English PEN asserts, Article 301, which criminalises dissent, has no place in a free society.  Writer Orhan Pamuk is one of the best known victims of the law, and it has also been used against those who criticise Turkey’s occupation of Cyprus or who assert that Turkey committed genocide against the Armenians. It is reported here that Turkey has now overtaken Iran and China to become to country with most journalists and writers in prison.


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