In a significant step for free expression, the authorities allowed three demonstrations to be held in Istanbul on 24 April to commemorate the deportations of Armenians in 1915. It was the first time such activities have been permitted in 95 years although the government still refuses to accept the use of the term Armenian “genocide.”
The Mothers of the Disappeared Collective paid tribute to the thousands of Armenian victims on Galatasaray Square. Homage was paid outside Istanbul’s main train station to the 229 intellectuals who were deported to the provinces of Ayas and Cankiri. The biggest event was in the evening, when more than 500 people participated in a candle-lit vigil on Taksim Square in the district of Beyoglu.
Small groups of nationalists tried to disrupt these demonstrations but the police were effective in keeping them at bay.
The gatherings took place in response to a joint appeal by 67 leading intellectuals including the journalist Ahmet Insel and the columnist Perihan Magden. The call was supported by the lawyer who represents the family of slain Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink.
The demonstrations are being seen as major advance for freedom of expression about the Armenian genocide. Journalists, including Armenian journalists, are nonetheless often the target of violence or harassment by the authorities in Turkey.
22.04.2010 : Journalist and writer facing three trials for book about newspaper editor’s murder
Reporters Without Borders hopes the courts will dismiss all three of the prosecutions brought against Turkish writer and investigative journalist Nedim Sener for his book about the role of intelligence failures in the 2007 murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink and instead make more of an effort to shed light on the Dink murder itself.
Justice is being delayed in the Dink case while the judicial authorities devote their energy to secondary charges against journalists that are completely unjustified. As result of just one book, entitled “The Dink Murder and the Intelligence Lies,” Sener is facing a possible combined sentence of 32 years in prison in three trials, one of which began already and another will start on 28 April.
“The charges against Nedim Sener will continue to be premature and unjustified until the judicial authorities have shed light on all the circumstances surrounding Hrant Dink’s murder and until the government and police officials involved in his murder are properly investigated,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We call for the withdrawal of all the chargers against Sener, who just wanted to end the impunity that has gone one for three years in the Dink case.” The press freedom organisation also calls for the withdrawal of all charges against Kemal Göktas, who is facing a possible five-year jail sentence in connection with his book “Hrant Dink murder: media, justice and state,” in which he looks at the role of the state and the judicial authorities in Dink’s murder.
Sener has not so far been detained and is trying as best he can to continue his work as a journalist. Reporters Without Borders hopes that the verdicts that are issued in the coming days are fair and unbiased.
Sener is facing a possible eight-year jail term for the charges of “insulting a state official,” “violating the confidentiality of private correspondence” and “trying to influence the outcome of a trial” that have been brought against him before an Istanbul criminal court. These charges relate above all to Sener’s suggestion in his book that, before Dink’s murder, Ali Fuat Yilmazer, the head of the general intelligence section of police intelligence, suppressed a report about threats against Dink instead of circulating it to his superiors, as required by established procedure.
During a hearing on 15 April, Sener testified in court that he did not intend in any way to interfere in the judicial investigation into the Dink murder and that he wrote in his book with the sole intention of shedding light on the murder.
In the second case against him, Sener will be tried before an Istanbul court of assizes on charges of “obtaining classified documents” and, by publishing them, “exposing an official who combats terrorism to the action of a terrorist organisation.” The charges carry a possible 20-year sentence.
In the third case, to be heard before a criminal court in the Istanbul district of Bakirkoy, Sener is facing a possible four-and-a-half-year sentence for violating a publication ban.
A Turkish journalist of Armenian origin who advocated reconciliation between Turks and Armenians, Dink was gunned down on 19 January 2007 on an Istanbul street outside the newspaper he founded and edited, Agos. His articles called for recognition of the Armenian genocide, a highly charged issue in Turkey. But despite the tension and despite receiving repeated threats from far-right groups, Dink always refused to leave Turkey.