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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 October 2007, 14:57 GMT 15:57 UK
Turkey could rethink insult law
Abdullah Gul
Mr Gul has been credited with steering Turkey's bid to join the EU
Turkish President Abdullah Gul has called for changes to a law that has allowed writers to face trial for insulting Turkish identity.

Nobel-laureate writer Orhan Pamuk and slain journalist Hrant Dink are among the many people tried under Article 301, though few have been convicted.

Mr Gul told the 47-nation Council of Europe in Strasbourg that the article had harmed Turkey's bid to join the EU.

He said he expected the AK Party, which won recent polls, to review the law.

"Even though nobody has been jailed under this article, I would like to see it changed," Mr Gul said.

"Parliament is now open and I predict some regulations could be made in connection with this issue."

It is Turkey's government, rather than its president, that decides changes to the country's laws.

As a former foreign minister in the pre-election AK Party cabinet, Mr Gul still has influence within the party.

The election was triggered by a crisis over Mr Gul's presidential bid, with Turkey's secular establishment accusing him - and the AK Party - of harbouring an Islamist agenda.

'Unfair perception'

Mr Gul defended his country's human rights record, in an address to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, a human rights watchdog.

"Nobody is in prison in Turkey today for expressing their ideas," he said.

But he acknowledged that much remained to be done and Article 301 had contributed an "unfair perception" that Turkey jailed dissidents.

The law has recently been used to prosecute writers and journalists who argued that Turkey was the scene of a genocide against Armenians in the early 20th Century.

Turkey officially rejects the view that their deaths can be classed as genocide.



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