CRAG E-Alert - 27 May 2005
Dear Friends & Supporters:
PEN is an international organisation committed to defending freedom of opinion and the peaceable expression of such opinion, as guaranteed by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
With a motto, 'the pen is mightier than the sword', it campaigns on behalf of writers around the world persecuted for the expression of their thoughts.
The following statement from the Canadian chapter of PEN focuses on Ragip Zarakolu's case. CRAG promoted this issue in the past.
Ragip Zarakolu's staunch belief in freedom of expression, his vocal campaign against book bannings and his persistence in publishing works that violate Turkey's repressive censorship laws have resulted in a series of indictments dating back to the early 1970s. In 1971, a military government assumed power in Turkey and instituted a crackdown on writers it deemed subversive. Following a conviction and a three-year stay in prison, Zarakolu steadfastly refused to abandon his campaign for freedom of thought, striving for an "attitude of respect for different thoughts and cultures to become widespread in Turkey."
In the 30 years since his release, Zarakolu has continued to defy Turkey's censorship laws, especially Article 312 of Turkey's Penal Code, which outlaws "making divisive propaganda via publication." The Belge Publishing House, which Zarakolu owns, operated under a barrage of charges brought by Turkish authorities against him and his late wife, Ayse Nur. Over the years, such charges resulted in further imprisonment for the couple, the wholesale confiscation and destruction of books, and the imposition of heavy fines.
Since his wife's death in 2002, Zarakolu has continued to face numerous prosecutions. He is currently on trial for an article published in the journal Ozgur Politka on March 8, 2003. The article was entitled "Sana Ne" ("Of No Interest") and its lambasting of what Zarakolu describes as Turkey's "aggressive and derogatory language used against the Kurdish region in Iraq" has seen the publisher once again fall foul of Article 312. Convictions under Article 312 carry sentences of between six months and two years.
May 17, 2005, was the second hearing of the case against Zarakolu related to the publication of George Jerjian's book, History Will Free All of Us/Turkish-Armenian Conciliation. However, the hearing was postponed to September 20 to enable commentary by "experts". Five days earlier, on May 12, Zarakolu was before another court for another hearing of the Sana Ne case. This hearing was adjourned to October 11.
PEN Canada considers the charges brought against Ragip Zarakolu to be in direct conflict with his right to free expression as guaranteed by Articles 19 and 22 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and is calling for the immediate and unconditional discontinuation of further legal processes against him.
Yesterday, CRAG drew your attention to the cancellation of the Bosphorus University conference in Istanbul assembling Turkish historians from across the world to examine the Armenian Genocide (amongst other issues) [Check CRAG d-base e-alert dated 26 May 2005].
These two instances typify a serious non-reckoning by Turkey of human rights' issues - a non-reckoning that grows alarming when one considers that it would wish to enter the EU on terms that are not fully compatible with the EU norms and values.
Some CRAG supporters have come back with a query about how to help counter such denial of the freedom of expression and the impunity of some of the measures undertaken by Turkey to date.
In the case of Ragip Zarakolu, you can express your concern on the basis of the above-referenced statement from PEN:
International PEN HQ E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Insofar as the 'cancellation' of the Bosphorus conference goes, you can address your concerns to the following:
The European Network of Genocide Scholars E-mail: email@example.com
International Association of Genocide Scholars, Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies, University of Minnesota
H-Genocide & H-Net: E-mail: H-NET@H-NET.msu.edu
You can also copy your MP to alert her / him of your concerns.
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Most of the news items, messages or documents that CRAG shares with you on its data-base can also usually be found on the CRAG link at www.accc.org.uk (with regular updates) or www.24april.org for background events. CRAG remains thankful to the ACCC Webmaster for keeping the CRAG page up-to-date, and welcomes all constructive and helpful comments.
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