Justice for Hrant Dink: More Work to be Done

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Hrant Dink was shot dead outside his Istanbul office in 2007. © Private

The murder of Hrant Dink on a cold Istanbul street in January, 2007 sent shock waves across Turkey and around the world.

Dink, an ebullient public intellectual and journalist, was a key figure in Turkey’s dwindling Armenian community and an important activist in Turkey’s long struggle for a more liberal, tolerant society.  For this, he was rewarded with state harassment, a public vilification campaign, and, finally, an assassin’s bullet.

The triggerman, Ogün Samast, was quickly arrested and, earlier this week, was sentenced to more than twenty years in prison.  This is an important step.  But given the remarkable discrepancies in the case, it is clear that more needs to be done.

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Books, Bombs and Banners: Freedom of Expression in Turkey

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When the Turkish Publishers Union granted Bedri Kadanir and Ahmet Sik their “freedom of  expression and thought” award may 26, Kadriye Adanir asked,

“My brother did not kill a person, he merely published a book. Why is there so much fear about a book? He is being tried on anti–terrorism charges.”

Her brother, the Kurdish publisher Bedri Adanir, has been in prison a year and a half in Diyarbakir while awaiting trial. Ahmet Sik, on the other hand, never got the chance to publish his book; digital copies of it were seized by the police last March 24, and Sik has been in prison awaiting trial ever since.

In defending the rather unusual step of confiscating a book and arresting its author before the book was even published, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan told the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe:

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Books, Bombs and Banners: Freedom of Expression in Turkey

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When the Turkish Publishers Union granted Bedri Kadanir and Ahmet Sik their “freedom of  expression and thought” award may 26, Kadriye Adanir asked,

“My brother did not kill a person, he merely published a book. Why is there so much fear about a book? He is being tried on anti–terrorism charges.”

Her brother, the Kurdish publisher Bedri Adanir, has been in prison a year and a half in Diyarbakir while awaiting trial. Ahmet Sik, on the other hand, never got the chance to publish his book; digital copies of it were seized by the police last March 24, and Sik has been in prison awaiting trial ever since.

In defending the rather unusual step of confiscating a book and arresting its author before the book was even published, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan told the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe:

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Turkish Troubles: Freedom of Expression Endangered in Turkey

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Journalists and activists participate in a rally calling for the freedom of press in central Ankara. (ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Turkey, as almost any observer (or indeed, Turkish citizen), will tell you, is a country of remarkable contradictions.  For someone like myself, who has known and loved the country for so many years, these contradictions can be painful.  On the one hand, Turkey enjoys a vibrant and wildly creative culture, a strong economy, outstanding universities, and electoral politics that – despite many flaws – have been able to adapt to real political change.  Yet, despite these remarkable achievements, Turkey’s record on freedom of expression has, in many ways, suffered real decline.

Problems range from the banning of websites to lawsuits aimed at stifling free speech and debate.  Indeed, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan seems to file lawsuits almost weekly, normally at critical journalists, in what seems to be a concerted effort to use civil courts to limit political criticism and serious journalistic scrutiny.  More broadly, anti-terrorism laws have been used to attack peaceful dissent.

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