ANKARA: Parties trade charges in Article 301 debate

The New Anatolian, Turkey
Jan 31 2007

Parties trade charges in Article 301 debate

The New Anatolian with Anka / Ankara
31 January 2007

Justice and Development (AK) Party deputies yesterday accused the
main opposition party of failing to support them on changes to
controversial Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK).

Over the weekend Justice Minister Cemil Cicek said that the AK Party
government had made changes to the article twice and added that if
another change is necessary the government will not shirk its
responsibility. Cicek also asked judges to adopt new insights into
the article’s interpretation and implementation.

Ruling AK Party deputies lambasted the Republican People’s Party
(CHP), saying they had not given support for changes to the article.
The CHP was quick to respond, saying, in the words of one, "They have
the power to change or annul the article all by themselves, but lack
the will to take this step."

"The AK Party’s thoughts regarding the article haven’t changed a
bit," said party spokesperson Eyup Fatsa. "But some parties are
playing politics over the issue. CHP leader Deniz Baykal warned us
not to ring their doorbell and now since Hrant Dink was murdered they
feel shame and are crying crocodile tears."

Justice Commission head Burhan Kuzu instead laid the blame on the
judiciary, saying that prosecutors should pay the utmost care and
leave behind old habits. He said that prosecutors should file
complaints only in exceptional cases and that is why the commission
added about Article 301, "Declaring an opinion with the aim of
criticizing cannot constitute a crime."

Expressing a view in line with Kuzu’s, Justice Commission member
Ayhan Sefer Ustun, also from the AK Party, defended the article,
saying, "There is no bad law, there are only bad implementations.
Some circles are putting Turkey into a difficult position by stirring
up the judicial system."

Article 301 was also among the major topics of a Turkish
Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association (TUSIAD) report issued
on Jan. 19, the very same day journalist Hrant Dink was murdered. The
report called for major changes or annulment of the article.
Meanwhile the European Union has maintained pressure for a change to
the article as well.

A group of academics from Bogazici University recently said that no
good has come from Article 301 and that it should be annulled
immediately. On Monday, Baskin Oran, a political scientist from
Ankara University, who also claims the article must be annulled,
applied to the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office regarding a
threatening letter, asking for protection.

However Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, at a press conference
prior to his departure for Sudan on Sunday, said that there is no way
that the article can be annulled, but that the government is open to
any suggestions for change.

Speaking to the Anka news agency, former Justice Minister Oltan
Sungurlu criticized the debates regarding the article, arguing that
such discussions will harm Turkey. Sungurlu said, "The problems will
not be solved by annulling an article. Just remember the Necmettin
Erbakan case. When we were talking about a change to the TCK’s
Article 312, the prosecutor found another article to charge Erbakan
that included tougher penalties. Issues regarding insulting
Turkishness must be evaluated with utmost care."

Meanwhile lawyers claim the article sets up a wall against insults
aimed at the Turkish state and its institutions, as well as securing
the key values protected by the Constitution, including so-called
Armenian genocide claims. Furthermore, lawyers argue that annulling
the article would cause a national reaction as people would freely
insult the state and nation.

Ultranationalist lawyer Kemal Kerincsiz, in an interview with Turk
Solu (Turkish Left) magazine, said, "Regarding the Armenian genocide
claims, Turkey can stand against the EU and the rest of the world,
based on this article. Instead of annulling the article, Turkey
should seek a way to overcome the pressure caused by other
countries."

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

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Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS