Sevan Nisanyan

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Sevan_Nisanyan&chld=H_100&junk=junk.png Sevan Nisanyan Mars symbol.svg
Other names Sevan Nişanyan
Name in Armenian Սևան Նշանյան
Birth date 21 December 1956
Resides in Sirince
Languages Turkish
Ethnicities Armenian

Writer Sevan Nisanyan's Jail Sentence Extended To 11 years And 8 Months

December 5, 2014 - 16:25 AMT

PanARMENIAN.Net - The prison sentence of Turkish-Armenian linguist and writer Sevan Nisanyan, who was jailed on charges of illegal construction, has been increased to 11 years and 8 months, Agos reports.

Nisanyan, imprisoned at the Aydın Yenipazar Prison at the moment, was sentenced in a different case to a total of 5 years 2 months 15 days imprisonment and given an additional fine of 12.600 TL by the Selcuk 2. Criminal Court of First Instance for opposing the Code of Protection of Cultural and Natural Properties (KTVKK). With the addition of this sentence, Nisanyan's total prisonsentence now stands at 11 years 8 months. Nisanyan's lawyer Murat Akcı has stated that they will appeal these rulings as well.

In March, the sentence passed for the same charge was reversed by the Supreme Court of Appeals, however, following a reassessment of the four files by the local court, Nisanyan was found guilty of "intentionally causing damage to immovable cultural assets under protection". Akcı explained that they did not even know the number of cases filed against Nisanyan on such charges, because regional protection decisions that form the basis of such charges are taken without being served to the person in question. Therefore, the person who is sentenced does not even know which of his or her acts was deemed to be within the scope of crime.

Akcı appealed to the Constitutional Court (AYM) for a sentence Nisanyan received for the same charges. Akcı explains that the AYM had previously quashed a similar ruling, but that a legal vacuum that remains because of the failure to amend the law leads the Supreme Court of Appeals to approve the same rulings. According to Akcı, if the Constitutional Court does not produce the expected ruling, Nisanyan might remain in prison for years. There is not a single other case in which a person is held in a closed prison for the crime Nisanyan is charged with. Akcı believes that this situation represents the 'success' of those who want to silence Sevan Nisanyan.

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Turkish-Armenian blogger sentenced to Turkish prison for blasphemy

By Ivan Watson and Gul Tuysuz, CNN May 23, 2013

Istanbul (CNN) -- A Turkish-Armenian blogger vowed to appeal a day after an Istanbul court sentenced him to more than a year in prison for blasphemy.

In a phone interview with CNN, Sevan Nisanyan accused Turkey's Islamic-rooted government of politically persecuting him.

"When I attacked the Islamist establishment they felt I overstepped my boundaries," said Nisanyan, who is a member of Turkey's tiny Armenian ethnic minority. "Here I am an Armenian doing something no Armenian has done in a Muslim country. This is really the height of boldness, of impudence. This is something you are not supposed to do."

Read more: Group: Number of jailed journalists worldwide reaches record high

According to Turkey's semi-official Anatolian Agency, Nisanyan received a one year and 45-day jail sentence for "openly denigrating the religious values held by a certain portion of the population."

Anatolian reported that Nisanyan's initial nine-month jail sentence was extended because "the crime was committed through the press."

Turkey is a majority Muslim country.

Nisanyan said the court cited a passage in his blog published last September that referred to the international uproar triggered by cheaply made Hollywood film called the "Innocence of Muslims." The film, which ridiculed the most revered figure in Islam, the Prophet Mohammed, sparked violent protests in Egypt and Libya. The Turkish prime minister also denounced the movie as "Islamophobic," though protests on Turkish streets were small and peaceful.

On Wednesday, Nisanyan published an English translation of the passage in question from his September 2012 blog post:

"It is not 'hate crime' to poke fun at some Arab leader who, many hundred years ago, claimed to have established contact with Deity and made political, economic and sexual profit as a result. It is almost a kindergarten-level case of what we call freedom of expression," Nisanyan wrote.

Since the blog was published last year, Nisanyan said, prosecutors have taken him to court simultaneously for this passage in three separate courts across Turkey.

Nisanyan said he represented himself at the criminal court in Istanbul, without the help of an attorney. He acknowledged that he took a confrontational approach in his statement to the court, arguing that no one should be prosecuted for discussing the historical background of a religious figure.

CNN Blog: Erdogan's troubling shift toward repression

"In consequence of his claim to have established contact with Deity, this Muhammed, who was a lowly merchant, acquired political dominion over all Arabian and gained the financial means to raise 30-thousand-strong armies," Nisanyan wrote, citing his statement to the court.

"It is an incontrovertible historical fact that this person made political, economic and sexual profit from his alleged contact with Deity."

In his interview with CNN, Nisanyan recognized that he was deliberately throwing fuel on the fire regarding his conviction.

"I'm hoping to contribute to the ongoing debate in this country on freedom of expression and freedom of religion," Nisanyan said. "I think I'm performing a useful public service."

This is not the first time people have been convicted of insulting Islam in Turkey.

Last month Fazil Say, Turkey's most famous classical pianist, received a 10-month suspended jail sentence for insulting Islamic values in a series of statements disseminated on Twitter.

International press freedom organizations have slammed Turkey in previous years for having more journalists in prison than any other country.

On April 30, the human rights watchdog Amnesty International denounced a new package of legislation sponsored by the Turkish government.

"Amnesty International believes the reform package will allow abusive prosecutions to continue, forcing still more political activists, journalists and human rights defenders to face jail sentences for carrying out their work," Amnesty wrote.

According to Anatolian, the judge in Istanbul ruled "not to postpone the punishment" for Nisanyan because he has a record of prior convictions.

Nisanyan served 11 months in prison a decade ago for committing building violations in the touristic Turkish village of Sirince, where he owned and operated a hotel.

Prior to becoming an outspoken political blogger and newspaper columnist, Nisanyan was a prominent travel writer and hotelier who promoted the boutique hotel and bed-and-breakfast industry in Turkey.

He said he is currently appealing a dozen convictions with sentences that add up to 20 years in jail.

During his previous prison term, Nisanyan wrote and published a dictionary of Turkish etymology, a study of the history of words.

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How to Silence an Armenian Maverick in Turkey

Nanore Barsoumian // January 3, 2014

They finally locked him up. It was only a matter of time, really. And frankly, I’m surprised it took them this long. The Turkish-Armenian journalist and entrepreneur Sevan Nisanyan could not accept his place in Turkish society. And a “good” Armenian ought to know better than that. Somehow, Nisanyan always made headlines—from television talk shows to controversial blog posts. He’s been practically swimming in some two-dozen court cases—but Nisanyan is built differently than many of us. In fact, he actually enjoys making waves. You might say he was born in the wrong country, but if you were to ask him, he’d tell you—as he once told me—“I feel perfectly at home in a country where most people would rather see me go. A paradox? I don’t think so. I like the precariousness of my situation. I think I contribute a lot to the society I live in.”

Two years, that’s how long Nisanyan will spend in a Turkish prison—an early Christmas present from the Turkish courts. Clutching a pillow in one hand, and two duffle bags in the other, he walked in to prison on Jan. 2. This was the punishment dished out from one of a long list of court cases piled against him that could amount to over 50 years in jail.

This time, they said, the 57-year-old Nisanyan had gone too far building a cottage without a permit on his property in the village of Sirince in Izmir, a tourist destination he’s credited with reviving through his rustic hotel business. A cottage without a permit, in a land of illegal constructions, in a country where the President sits in a mansion confiscated from its Armenian subjects. Chew on that, Armenian!

This is a country where laws work for rulers—laws that were crafted to weed out the other, to sanction looting, gagging, chaining, and even killing.

Even at the prison gates, Nisanyan was still defiant. Still controversial. Still hopeful. “Unfortunately, Turkey is being governed by people who have no horizons, no vision, no quality; by small minded people [‘dwarves’ in literal translation],” he said to reporters gathered there. “It is a pity for this country. All of us, all of you, deserve better. We hope that one day, people with vision, people who can tell the good from the bad, will also be able to govern.”

As to his hotel-houses in Sirince, Nisanyan donated them to the Nesin Foundation in 2011. The foundation, located in Sirince, brings educational opportunities to children from financially handicapped families.

Despite the numerous court cases that at times saw him appearing before a judge as often as twice a week, Nisanyan managed to publish his research on the old and new names of places in Turkey, as well as an online toponymic index. This, in addition to his bestselling guidebook to small hotels in Turkey.

Just over a year ago, Nisanyan, a graduate of Yale and Columbia, angered thousands through a blog post defending freedom of speech. It was a response to proposed “hate crime” bills following the release of “The Innocence of Muslims,” a film denigrating the Prophet Muhammad.

“Mocking an Arab leader who centuries ago claimed to have contacted God and made political, financial, and sexual benefits out of this is not a crime of hatred. It is an almost kindergarten-level case of what we call freedom of expression,” Nisanyan wrote in his post.

A few months later, an Istanbul court found Nisanyan—a recipient of the 2004 Freedom of Thought Award by the Human Rights Association of Turkey—guilty and sentenced him to over 13 months in jail. His crime? “Publicly insulting the religious values of part of the population.”

When I asked him about it a few days later, his response was, “I don’t believe anyone has ever been prosecuted in Turkey for advocating the murder, mayhem, or massacre of Armenians, Jews, Kurds, atheists, gays, or liberals. Thousands, on the other hand, were prosecuted and convicted in the past for ‘insulting Turkishness’ under the notorious Article 301 of the penal code. Now, ‘insulting Islam’ seems to be replacing that old juggernaut as a favorite instrument to hit dissidents with.”

In 2010, Nisanyan’s comments about the Armenian Genocide aired during a Turkish television debate program resulted in the punishment of the TV station. Turkey’s Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTUK) declared that Nisanyan’s comments “humiliated the Republic of Turkey.”

Turkey’s human rights record—especially when it comes to journalists—is dismal. In 2012, Reporters Without Borders dubbed Turkey “The World’s Biggest Prison for Journalists.” In fact, the country is the leading jailer of journalists—ahead of China and Iran.

Nisanyan’s imprisonment further confirms what he has been communicating all along: “There is instinctive hostility toward an Armenian. It turns rabid when that Armenian is also an outspoken critic of the Turkish system.”

At the doorstep of the Armenian Genocide centennial, Nisanyan’s imprisonment is but a chapter in the fate of Turkey’s Armenians. “I believe this is a test case for the Erdogan government’s willingness to improve minority rights in Turkey,” he had told me in 2010, when a Turkish court ordered the demolition of his houses. “I believe it is also a test case that will show if Armenians can go on living freely and securely in this country, or whether the old system of state thuggery will go on unchanged.”

Ultimately, when a restless maverick like Nisanyan goes to jail, the whole of society suffers. It leaves Turkey with one less dissenting voice; one less dreamer capable of hoping for a democratic Turkey; and one more nail that binds modern Turkey to its xenophobic legacy.