European Report
January 8, 2008

In the face of strong criticism from the European Union, the Turkish
government has drafted a proposal to amend of the infamous Article
301 of the country's Penal Code which restricts freedom of speech. A
bill amending the article, which provides up to four years in jail for
"insulting Turkishness," is now ready to be sent to the parliament,
Justice Minister Mehmet Ali Sahin confirmed on 7 January.

"The work on the draft has been finalised. I believe the proposal
could be submitted to parliament this week," Sahin said.

The EU has been strongly criticising Turkish prosecutors for
using Article 301 as a tool to restrict freedom of expression of
non-violent opinions, inter alia, contesting the official line on
the World War I massacres of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire, by
journalists, writers and scholars. Dozens of intellectuals, including
2006 Nobel literature laureate Orhan Pamuk, have been tried under
the provision for "insulting Turkishness" by calling the Armenian
massacre a genocide. In its latest report on Turkey's progress towards
membership, the Commission strongly urged the government in Ankara
to bring Article 301 "in line with the relevant EU standards".

EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn has warned Turkey that only
after this condition is met would the Commission recommend opening
negotiations on the crucial policy area covering the judiciary and
human rights (Chapter 23).

The proposal has been drafted by the ruling Justice and Development
Party's (AKP) Central Executive Board. Several non-governmental
organisations, associations and university scholars have been
consulted. Once sent to the parliament, the proposal - known as a
priority amendment' - is expected to be adopted without delay with
the support of the AKP, which has a strong majority in the lower house.