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Turkey: Controversial Criminal Code Provision Amended

(May 2, 2008) On April 30, 2008, Turkey's Grand National Parliament passed an amendment to a controversial provision of the Criminal Code. The Turkish legislature had adopted a new Criminal Code on September 26, 2004, that became effective on June 1, 2005. (Law No. 5237, Sept. 26, 2004, T.C. RESMI GAZETE [Official Gazette of the Republic of Turkey], Oct. 12, 2004.) Its article 301, punishing the denigration of “Turkishness” and of Turkish government authorities, has been controversial from the beginning, with human rights groups like Amnesty International criticizing its impact on free speech. (Amnesty International, Turkey: Article 301 Is a Threat to Freedom of Expression and Must Be Repealed Now, Dec. 1, 2005.)

The new version of article 301, which passed by a vote of 250 to 65, included the following changes:

• The offense is now insulting the “Turkish nation” rather than “Turkishness.”

• The maximum sentence is now two years, down from the original three.

• First-time offenders will be eligible for suspended sentences.

• The Minister of Justice must now approve all investigations of these offenses.

(Turkey's Parliament Softens Law Restricting Free Speech, AP, Apr. 30, 2008; see also Jurist, Turkish Parliament Amends State Slander Law, PAPER CHASE NEWSBURST, Apr. 30, 2008, available at http://jurist.law.pitt.edu/paperchase/2008/04/turkish-parliament-amends-state-
slander.php
.)