Page last updated at 12:43 GMT, Wednesday, 30 April 2008 13:43 UK

EU hails Turkey free speech move

The funeral of Hrant Dink (January 2007)
Hrant Dink was convicted of insulting Turkishness and later murdered

The EU has described a vote by the Turkish parliament to soften its controversial law limiting free speech as a "welcome step forward".

Under the law, intellectuals including Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk have been accused of "insulting Turkishness".

The EU had set reform of Article 301 of Turkey's penal code as a necessary move on the road to membership of the bloc.

An EU spokesman said the EU now "looks forward to further moves to change similar articles in the penal code".

Crime to insult the Turkish nation, rather than Turkishness
Justice minister required to open each case
Maximum sentence of two years in jail, rather than three
Amadeu Altafaj Tardio told reporters that the article was "the main one" - but not the only one - that needed reform, to ensure an end to "ungrounded prosecutions".

He said it was now time for the Turkish authorities to focus on guaranteeing "full freedom of expression for all Turkish citizens".

Since 2003, hundreds of people have been tried for "insulting Turkishness" and nationalists, as well as the main opposition, opposed any change to the law.

It is obvious that the law needs to be reformed. The current constitution is based on a militarist frame of mind
Diren Yardimli, Istanbul
Article 301 was used against novelist Orhan Pamuk because of comments he wrote about the massacres of Armenians by the Ottomans in 1915-16.

Armenian-Turkish editor Hrant Dink, who was shot dead last year, had been convicted under it. It was his murder by an ultra-nationalist that spurred the most recent pressure to reform the penal code.

Insulting the Turkish nation - rather than "Turkishness" - will still be a crime, punishable by two years in jail.

Obituary: Hrant Dink
19 Jan 07 |  Europe

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