Fighting for free speech in Turkey

news.bbc.co.uk - 11 April 2008

Hundreds of writers have been prosecuted in Turkey for "insulting Turkishness", but Sarah Rainsford discovers that there are still some people willing to publish controversial books.

It is a very difficult time to be a writer in Turkey. Last year the prominent Turkish-Armenian journalist, Hrant Dink, was murdered. This year, an ultra-nationalist gang allegedly had the Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk on its hit list. Both men had been prosecuted for "insulting Turkishness".

Today, many writers once known for their forthright views have fallen silent. But one man is still putting himself on the line in a fight for free speech.

I found Ragip Zarakolu in one of the dimly-lit corridors of the Sultanahmet courthouse waiting to be called for his latest trial.

A small man with grey curls and crinkled kindly eyes, Mr Zarakolu is a publisher on a mission to shatter every taboo in Turkey.

As a result, he once admitted to me with characteristic chuckle he is now the most prosecuted publisher in the country.

This time he is also accused of "insulting Turkishness" under article 301 of the penal code.

The case was opened after he published the work of a British writer. It was the story of the writer's family in 1915, when hundreds of thousands of Ottoman Armenians were deported as traitors during World War I. (...)

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