Journalist Perihan Magden Acquitted of Charges of Criticizing Turkish Government

Posted on August 1, 2006

Turkish journalist and writer Perihan Magden has been acquitted of charges under Article 301 of the Turkish consitution, which allows no criticism of the government or its policies.

Istanbul's second criminal court of first instance ruled yesterday that an article defending the rights of a conscientious objector amounted to "heavy criticism conveyed within the scope of freedom of expression" and did not constitute a crime.

In her column, published in the weekly Yeni Aktuel magazine last December, Magden defended conscientious objector Mehmet Tarhan who was sentenced to a record four-year term in a military prison for disobedience after refusing to wear his military uniform. She argued that Turkey needed to establish a civilian service as an alternative to compulsory military conscription.


Magden is one of a string of writers and journalists to stand trial for expressing opinions. Earlier this month the case against the bestselling author Elif Shafak, charged under Article 301 for "insulting Turkishness" in her latest novel, was reopened.

The novelist Orhan Pamuk faced similar charges for commenting on the mass killings of Armenians by Turks around the time of the first world war. The charges against Pamuk were dropped for technical reasons late last year amid intense international pressure.

Turkey clearly has no intention of changing its policies and only acquitted Perihan Magden because a conviction would probably stop Turkey from being allowed in the European Union. And if the EU decides to let Turkey in the union, no doubt the country will start a new, brutal clampdown on writers and journalists.

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