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Turkish Publisher Hasan Öztoprak acquitted

Turkish publisher Hasan Öztoprak, publisher of the book Generating a Language (Bir dil yaratmak) by Kurdish writer Mehmed Uzun, has been acquitted of charges brought by the State that the book provoked 'hate and anger among people by promoting ethnic separatism' and thus endangering public order. The State Security Court of Istanbul also decided to return the seized copies of the book, which contains a series of interviews with the author about the Kurdish literature and language.

The case has been closely monitored by the International Publishers Association (IPA) alongside the International PEN and the Mehmed Uzun Committee created in Sweden, as well as the European Commission. The hearing on 20 June was attended by Benoît Müller, IPA Secretary General, a delegation of the International PEN led by Eugene Schoulgin, President of the International PEN Writers in Prison Committee, Turkish authors and publishers, the international and Turkish press. IPA welcomed the Court's decision but expressed serious concerns about the motivation of the Public Prosecutor's decision to withdraw the charges against publisher Hasan Öztoprak. In essence, the accusation maintained that several excerpts of Generating a Language would provide grounds for a conviction under the Turkish Criminal Code, had the book been published in more than 1000 copies. In other words, the decision does not substantially diminish the legal insecurity authors and publishers are facing in Turkey.

In 2001 the Republic of Turkey adopted a number of constitutional and legal amendments concerning freedom of expression and the freedom of the press. Despite these encouraging steps, publications referring to ethnic groups living in Turkey and their cultures, or peacefully expressing opinions on political or cultural issues are regularly banned under the recently promulgated Anti-Terror Law and the Criminal Code.

Source: IPA Press Release.

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