Turkey Prosecuting Human Rights Activist On Charges Of Recognizing Genocide
Armenian National Committee of America
For Immediate Release
TURKEY PROSECUTING HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST ON CHARGES OF RECOGNIZING ARMENIAN GENOCIDE
WASHINGTON, DC - The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) today called on the U.S. State Department to protest the prosecution of a Turkish human rights activist on charges that he had called on Turkey to apologize for the Armenian Genocide.
The activist, Akin Birdal, is the former president of the Istanbul-based Human Rights Association and Turkey's leading human rights advocate. He recently completed a 10 month sentence for speeches he gave in 1995 and 1996 supporting the democratic aspirations of the Kurdish people. The Armenian Genocide-related charges currently against him carry a maximum prison sentence of six years.
According to a March 1st Associated Press (AP) article, "Birdal's lawyer Sedat Aslantas said earlier that his client had made remarks about Turkey's treatment of minorities in general and not particularly the Armenians." The AP story also noted that "dozens of writers, journalists and intellectuals have been jailed under Turkish laws which limit freedom of speech."
"The State Department should not stand quietly on the sidelines as the Turkish government violates internationally accepted protections of freedom of expression, intimidating its own citizens by enforcing an Armenian Genocide 'Gag Rule,'" said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. "By this standard, the Turkish government would arrest President Bush for his campaign statements, imprison the overwhelming majority of the U.S. Congress for supporting Genocide recognition legislation, prosecute nearly every Holocaust and Genocide scholar for affirming the facts of the Armenian Genocide, and indict basically everybody else that they have not paid off or intimidated into complicity in their shameful campaign of genocide denial."
Congressman Smith Criticizes the Turkish Government's Intimidation of its Own Citizens
Turkey's efforts to block Armenian Genocide recognition were also discussed during a March 27th hearing of the House International Relations Subcommittee on International Operations. As part of his argument against proposed cutbacks in U.S. international broadcasting programs in Turkey, Subcommittee member Chris Smith (R-NJ) reviewed for the panel the campaign of threats and intimidation the Turkish government used last year against the White House and Congress to prevent consideration of the Armenian Genocide resolution. Given the heavy handed tactics the Turkish government has shown it is willing to use against more powerful foreign nations, he asked his colleagues to imagine the types of intimidation they are using against their own citizens, out of the public spotlight.
Assyrian Priest's Arrest Included in State Department Human Rights Report
In a related matter, the State Department's recently released annual human rights report on Turkey included information on the arrest of Father Yusuf Akbulut, an Assyrian priest charged with inciting "racial and sectarian hatred" for mentioning the Armenian Genocide in an interview with Turkey's Hurriyet newspaper.
An ANCA grassroots campaign initiated in December of last year urged individuals to call on the State Department to formally protest Father Akbulut's unfair arrest and prosecution to the State Department. In a departure from past practice, the State Department's report included mention of the Armenian Genocide, in a sentence describing the circumstances of Father Yusuf's arrest, without prefacing the term with words such as "alleged" or using evasive or euphemistic terminology. The section dealing with this matter reads as follows:
"In October a Syriac priest was charged under Article 312 for 'inciting religious, racial and sectarian hatred' for comments he made to the media about legislation under consideration at that time by the U.S. Congress that referred to Armenian genocide. The trial of the priest, who spoke in favor of the legislation, began in December. He spent one night under arrest but otherwise has been free to continue his pastoral duties."
The full text of the State Department's human rights report on Turkey can be found at the following world wide web address: https://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2000/eur/index.cfm?docid=844
Additional information can on both the Akin Birdal and the Father Akbulut cases can be obtained by contacting Acting Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor: The Hon. Michael
E. Parmly; Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor; U.S. Department of State; 2201 C Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20520. Tel: (202) 647-2126. Fax: (202) 647-5283
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