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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Turkish parliament amends state slander law
Katerina Ossenova at 9:17 AM ET

[JURIST] The Grand National Assembly of Turkey [official website, in Turkish] voted Wednesday in favor of restricting the controversial Article 301 [Amnesty backgrounder; JURIST news archive] of the country's penal code [text, in Turkish], which makes "insulting the Turkish identity" a crime. Lawmakers voted 250-65 in favor of amending Article 301 by reducing the minimum sentence for denigrating Turkish identity from three years to two, allowing for the suspension of sentences for first-time offenders and requiring the approval by the justice minister of all investigations. The amended provisions, which were proposed [JURIST report] by Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) [party website, in Turkish] in early April, also prohibit insults to the "Turkish nation" rather than "Turkishness."

Many prominent Turkish journalists, authors, and academics have been tried for insulting "Turkishness" [JURIST report] under Article 301. Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk [JURIST news archive] is among the 745 convicted since 2003 for violating the law. Critics accuse Turkey of using the law to silence government critics, making it a major stumbling block [JURIST report] to Turkey's accession to the European Union. On April 11, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso [official profile], in a speech [PDF text; JURIST report] before the Turkish parliament, urged Turkey to speed up political and social reforms to meet the criteria for accession into the European Union [JURIST news archive]. AP has more.

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