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Press Release - Pallone: Turkey Continues To Use Intimidatation To Deny Citizens Freedom Of Expression

Location: Washington, DC


Washington, D.C. --- Representative Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ,) co-chairman of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues and a member of the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues, made the following statement today on the floor of the House of Representatives regarding the trial of author Elif Shafak and the lack of freedom of expression for citizens in Turkey:

"Mr. Speaker, last week Turkey put renowned novelist Elif Shafak on trial for charges that she insulted "Turkishness" -- because a character in her latest book refers to the deaths of one and a half million Armenians in 1915 as Genocide. Nine months pregnant, Shafak was forced to defend herself -- or more specifically a fictional character in her book -- to prevent going to jail.

"Although Shafak was acquitted, Turkey continues to use forms of intimidation to deny its citizens their right to freedom of expression. It lobbies for its "so-called" rightful role in the international community. Yet, it does not live up to democratic principles and standards.

"In 1915, a systematic and deliberate campaign of genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire against Armenians occurred. Over the following eight years, one and a half million Armenians were tortured and murdered, and more than half a million were forced from their homeland into exile.

"To this day, the Republic of Turkey refuses to acknowledge the fact that this massive crime against humanity took place in the name of Turkish nationalism. When it comes to facing the judgment of history about the Armenian Genocide, Turkey has chosen to trample on the rights of its citizens to maintain its lies.

"The trial of Ms. Shafak is a perfect example of the depths the Turkish authorities will go to in order to deny the Armenian Genocide. Their refusal has no limits.

"Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code was used against Shafak. It is the same law that was used against author Orhan Pamuk in 2005. It states that any person who "insults ... the Republic" can be jailed for between six months to three years.

"More than 60 similar cases have been brought against writers and artists in Turkey. The law is being used to silence political voices in Turkey. In this instance, it disturbingly was used to charge a made up character in a book.

"Mr. Speaker, I am extremely pleased that on September 4th, the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs insisted Turkey make substantial changes in many areas before the nation could ever be accepted as a member of the EU. On September 4th, it announced that Turkey had failed to align its laws with the Union's standards. In particular, he noted Turkey's lack of recognition of the Armenian Genocide, its illegal occupation of the Northern third of Cyprus, religious inequality and its suppressive penal code.

"Turkish authorities continue to deny their citizens the freedoms that Americans and other democracies across the world value so greatly. Without them, a true democracy does not exist. Until Turkey can guarantee key principles of a democracy -- they should not be allowed to join the European Union.

"In addition, Turkey needs to abide by international law in its dealings with its neighbors. Turkey continues its illegal blockade of Armenia. It refuses entrance of goods from Cyprus to its ports.

"The Turkish Prime Minister is expected to visit with President Bush sometime in early October. In light of these latest events, I also encourage this Administration to insist Turkey cleans up its act, both with regard to suppression of the rights of its own citizens, and illegal and aggressive acts against its neighboring countries."

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