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Page last updated at 03:33 GMT, Wednesday, 30 April 2008 04:33 UK

Turkey reforms controversial law

Demonstrators hold a banner reading "We are witnesses, we want justice for Hrant", near an Istanbul court where a man is being tried for Hrant Dink's murder, 28 April 28, 2008
Calls for reform to the law have grown since the 2007 murder of Hrant Dink

Turkey's parliament has approved the softening of a law criticised by the EU for limiting free speech.

Article 301 of the penal code has been used to prosecute Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk and other intellectuals.

Since 2003, hundreds of people have been tried under the controversial law for "insulting Turkishness".

However, critics argue the amendments do not go far enough. Insulting the Turkish nation will still be a crime, punishable by two years in jail.

Parliament voted 250-65 in favour of a government-backed proposal to make changes to the law late on Tuesday night.

Under the reformed law:

  • It will be a crime to insult the Turkish nation, rather than Turkishness.
  • The justice minister will be required to open each case.
  • The maximum sentence will be two years in jail, rather than three.

The EU has long called for changes to Article 301, arguing that the law places severe restrictions on free speech in Turkey. The issue has threatened to scupper Turkey's EU accession talks.

Demands for the repeal or reform of the law had been growing since the murder last year of the outspoken newspaper editor, Hrant Dink, who had been charged under the law.


SEE ALSO
Officer suspended in Dink probe
06 Feb 07 |  Europe
Obituary: Hrant Dink
19 Jan 07 |  Europe
Country profile: Turkey
18 Jan 07 |  Country profiles

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