ANKARA: Prosecutor says apology petition legal

Hürriyet , Turkey
March 11 2009

Prosecutor says apology petition legal

ANKARA – An Ankara prosecutor who aruges that the Armenia apology
petition campaign launched late last year is not illegal has asked the
Justice Ministry to issue a written directive to that effect.

The "I apologize" campaign was launched Dec. 15. Though it has drawn
harsh criticism within Turkey, approximately 29,000 people, including
many intellectuals and journalists, have signed the petition, which
reads in part: "My conscience does not accept the insensitivity showed
to and the denial of the Great Catastrophe that the Armenians were
subjected to in 1915."

Armenia claims up to 1.5 million Armenians were systematically killed
in 1915 under the rule of the Ottoman Empire. Turkey denies this,
saying that any deaths were the result of civil strife that erupted
when Armenians took up arms for independence in eastern Anatolia.

A complaint was lodged against the organizers of the petition
campaign. After a preliminary inquiry, Ankara Prosecutor Nadi
Türkaslan said the petition is protected as a freedom of
expression and thus the organizers could not be prosecuted.

On March 3, a court overturned the prosecutor’s finding,
saying that criminal proceedings could be initiated against the
organizers. The decision allows prosecutors to seek the permission of
Justice Minister Mehmet Ali Å?ahin to launch an investigation.

Charges made against the organizers will be based on penal code
Article 301, which criminalizes insulting Turkishness and also
requires ministerial approval to start any proceedings. Prosecutor
Türkaslan, in a letter to the Justice Ministry, called for a
directive to annul the ruling and asked that the case be sent to the
Supreme Court of Appeals.

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