Cem Buyukcakir

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11-Month Prison Sentence for ‘Gul is Armenian’ Comment

Nov 6 2010

ISTANBUL, Turkey—A Turkish journalist and publisher has received an 11-month prison sentence for “insulting President Gul” by saying that he is of Armenian descent. The complaint against the journalist was filed by the President’s office, reported Bianet.

The defendant, Cem Buyukcakir, is the publication director of the news website Haberin Yeri (HaberinYeri.net). His crime? Publishing a comment by a reader who “accused” Gul of being Armenian.

During the trial, the defense lawyer had noted that the publisher was not responsible for the reader comments and requested to drop the procedures, Bianet reported.

After the hearing, Buyukcakir said, “I received an 11-month prison sentence for a comment that I removed as soon as the warning reached me. It is very strange that people still insist on controlling the Internet press in this country. It is upsetting that the author of the criminal comment is still publishing his columns at another website and that nobody initiated any legal proceedings against that person. I am not asking for much: I just want the evidence presented to court to be investigated. With today’s technology, it’s not very difficult to establish that I am not the person who wrote that comment. I hope that the parties in and outside the parliament will not remain passive on this issue.”

Deputy Canan Aritman from the Republican People’s Party (CHP) opposed the position of the president’s office saying, “You will see [the truth] once you look into the ethnic roots of his mother’s family.”

The reader comment was posted in late 2008, at a time when the Turkish Grand National Assembly was discussing the apology campaign on 1915, initiated by Turkish intellectuals.

The fact that the Turkish President went to court for the “insult” of being called an Armenian demonstrates, according to human rights activists, the extent to which Armenians are vilified in Turkey.