Leading Turkey reporters charged
By Sarah Rainsford
BBC News, Istanbul


A prosecutor in Istanbul has filed charges against five prominent Turkish newspaper columnists who are accused of insulting the judiciary.

It is the latest in a series of cases brought against some of the best-known writers under a controversial Article 301 of the new penal code.

More than 60 of them are on trial under Article 301 that makes it a crime to insult Turkishness or state organs.

EU officials say Article 301 is the cause for serious concern.

Sensitive subject

There is a very thin line in Turkish law between criticism and insult, and writers and publishers here keep on stepping over it.

Now another five men have joined their ranks, this time accused of insulting the judiciary.

They all wrote newspaper columns in September after a court intervened to stop a controversial academic conference on the fate of the Ottoman Armenians.

It is one of the most sensitive subjects in the country.

The columns called the court ruling nonsense, a travesty of justice and an attack on the academic freedom of universities.

But a group of nationalist lawyers took that as an insult and the men now face trial and potentially up to nine years in prison.

The EU has expressed serious concern about the limits on freedom of expression in Turkey and the restrictive way Article 301 is interpreted.

Turkey's best-known novelist, Orhan Pamuk, goes on trial in a fortnight charged under the same law.

Many see that case as a test of Turkey's commitment to democratic reforms, but the list of the accused is growing despite pressure from Europe.

The cases are becoming a trial of strength now between those who see Turkey's future within Europe and strong conservative and nationalist forces here who see the EU as a threat