ANKARA (AP/Reuters)–An Istanbul court fined an author and a journalist yesterday for insulting the Turkish state–the latest convictions under a law that European officials say limits freedom of expression and must be changed.
Turkey’s government has indicated that it has no plans to change the law–under which the country’s most famous novelist–Orhan Pamuk–was also charged. Pamuk told a Swiss newspaper that no one dared discuss the massacre of a million Armenia’s 90 years ago nor the deaths of 30,000 Kurds in recent years.
The prosecutions have raised concerns within the European Union over freedom of expression in Turkey–which won EU accession talks status on October 3.
"Freedoms are not limitless–in freedom there’s a definite limit," Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in an interview broadcast live on CNN-Turk television Wednesday evening.
Zulkuf Kisanak–the author of ”Lost Villages," was sentenced to five months in prison–which was immediately converted to a $2,200 fine. Aziz Ozer–editor of the far-left monthly magazine Yeni Dunya Icin Cagri–received a 10-month prison term–which the judge later switched to a $4,400 fine.
Both men were fined under a law which makes it a crime to insult the Turkish republic–”Turkishness," or state institutions. The law has soured relations with the European Union–which insists that Turkey–which began EU membership negotiations in October–do more to protect freedom of expression.
Kisanak’s book tells the story of 14 Kurdish villages that were forcibly evacuated by the Turkish military in the early 1990s–during the height of clashes between Turkish troops and autonomy-seeking Kurdish rebels. Human rights groups say Turkish security forces burned down thousands of Kurdish villages as part of a strategy to clear the countryside and deny the guerrillas local support.
Kisanak said he would appeal yesterday’s ruling.
”I do not believe that I insulted the state," he said. ”My book was based on concrete events–backed by documen’s and photographs."
Ozer was sentenced for publishing two articles in his magazine–which criticized Turkey’s backing of the US-led war in Iraq. He said he would appeal yesterday’s ruling.