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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 March, 2005, 17:56 GMT
Turkey acquits 'insulting' writer
By Pam O'Toole
BBC regional analyst

Turkish men reading newspapers
Human rights groups still have concerns about freedom of expression
A prominent Turkish academic charged with insulting the Turkish authorities has been acquitted by an Ankara court.

Fikret Baskaya had been charged over an article asking if police could have done more to prevent an arson attack by Islamist activists which left 37 dead.

He was charged after the article - originally published 11 years ago - was republished in an anthology.

International human rights groups monitoring the trial have welcomed the decision to acquit him.

The Turkish courts have yet to announce exactly why they decided to acquit Mr Baskaya.

James Logan, researcher on Turkey for Amnesty International, says there are other concerns.

"While the decision was a very welcome one and the spotlight of international opinion was on this case, many other such writings could potentially be criminalised - writings which, we consider, should be protected under the right of freedom of expression," he said.

"And while this provision remains in law - that people can be prosecuted for criticising the military, the state, judges or presidents - we will still have major concerns about the full enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression in Turkey."

More needed

Amnesty International says it is also concerned about the ongoing case of a Turkish publisher, Ragip Zarakolu, who appeared in court on Wednesday accused of inciting hatred over an article in which he criticised Ankara's policies regarding largely-Kurdish Northern Iraq.

Over recent years, Ankara has introduced a raft of reforms intended to smooth Turkey's way to eventual EU membership.

Human rights groups recognise that these have amended some laws restricting freedom of expression, or led to reductions in sentences meted out.

But they say more needs to be done. Some Turkish politicians agree.

After Mr Baskaya's acquittal, the head of the Turkish parliament's human rights commission said that the part of the penal code used to prosecute him was undemocratic and should be abolished.


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