Turkey: Article 301 debate on hold as slain editor laid to rest

The assassination of Hrant Dink has, fortunately, sparked renewed challenges to the censorious Article 301. But the Turkish state seems to be trying to squelch the debate. Would Dink have wanted his funeral to be used in this manner? From the Turkish Daily News, Jan. 24:

Responding to calls from prominent Turks and foreign leaders to annul a controversial law immediately, Justice Minister Cemil Çiçek said on Tuesday that the last thing Turkey needed was to begin another debate on Article 301 of the penal code, arguing that the matter should be discussed after slain journalist Hrant Dink, convicted under the article last year, was laid to rest.

Speaking to journalists in Parliament, Çiçek said the matter could be discussed in a more conducive environment after Dink’s funeral and burial services.

Dink, convicted of “insulting Turkishness” under the controversial article, was murdered last Friday. Many famous names, including Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk, have been tried under the Article 301, which criminalizes “insulting Turkishness, state bodies, the judiciary and Turkey’s founder Atatürk.” It is seen as a major impediment to the progress of freedom of expression in Turkey and the government is under serious pressure, both domestically and from overseas, to annul the article.

After Dink’s murder, calls for the annulment or amendment of the article have grown louder.

Çiçek also said that prosecutors specializing in organized crime were investigating the assassination. “We will all see the result of the investigation,” he said.

Meanwhile, German deputy Claudia Roth, speaking at the funeral of Dink, said they expected the government to take a stance against nationalism and called for the annulment of Article 301.

See our last post on Turkey and the free speech struggle.