Turkey Eases Controversial 'Insult' Statute

But advocates say changes to free speech law mainly cosmetic
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 30, 2008 8:06 AM CDT
Two lawmakers argue at the parliament in Ankara, Turkey, Friday, April 18, 2008. Parliament's justice panel has softened Article 301 of Turkey's penal code, which has been used to prosecute Nobel laureate...   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – The Turkish parliament has approved changes to a notorious law that makes it a crime to "insult Turkishness," reports the Financial Times. Ankara legislators today amended the notorious Article 301, reducing the maximum sentence and requiring the justice minister to approve all prosecutions. But while nationalists are outraged, civil rights lawyers call the changes cosmetic at best.

The European Union, of which Turkey hopes to become a member, has been a strident critic of the law. Article 301 has been used to prosecute major figures, such as the Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk, for discussing the Armenian genocide during the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The amendments also change the crime in question from "insulting Turkishness" to "insulting the Turkish nation."