The Akcam Case
The Armenian Reporter
P.O. Box 129
Paramus, NJ 07652
Tel: (201) 226-1995
January 13, 2007
- 1 THE AKCAM CASE: PRIMARY DOCUMENTS
THE AKCAM CASE: PRIMARY DOCUMENTS
PARAMUS, NJ -- The Armenian Reporter has obtained several primary documents pertaining to the case of Taner Akcam, the Turkish intellectual and professor at the University of Minnesota who was the subject of a formal complainit this week under Turkey's Penal Code Article 301, for having recognized the Armenian Genocide in a newspaper column last October.
Five primary documents appear below.
First is the text of an "Open Letter" Mr. Akcam circulated on January 7, 2007, in which he describes the circumstances of the charges against him, and his actions thus far.
Second is a transcript of the official complaint against Mr. Akcam, submitted by Recep Akkus (an associate of ultra-nationalist attorney Kemal Kerinçsiz) to the Office of the State Head Prosecutor at Sisli. This is an English translation of a Turkish original.
Third is a transcript of the deposition Mr. Akcam gave to the State Prosecutor at Sisli. This is an English translation of a Turkish original.
Fourth is an English translation of Mr. Akcam's Oct. 6, 2006 column in Agos, wherein he reacted to the complaint against Agos editor Hrant Dink, and himself affirmed the Armenian Genocide as such. It was on the basis of this column that Turkish prosecutors this week launched the investigation into Akcam on the charge of "insulting Turkishness." This authorized translation of the Turkish original marks the first time the column has appeared in English.
Fifth (and finally) is the letter issued by the University of Minnesota upholding the academic freedom of Taner Akçam.
Mr. Akcam has approved the release of these documents, which will shortly be posted on the websites of the University of Minnesota Dept. of History and of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. The Reporter refers readers to www.history.umn.edu and www.chgs.umn.edu for further information.
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TANER AKCAM'S OPEN LETTER
January 7, 2007
To Whom It May Concern:
I am writing to advise you that a criminal complaint has been filed against me in Turkey. I have already informed Radikal newspaper and expect coverage to appear any day now. Agos managing editor Hrant Dink is informing the Turkish press.
Last Thursday, January 4, while I was visiting the Agos newspaper offices in Istanbul, Dink informed me that a summons had been issued regarding my column of October 6, 2006.
In this column, "Hrant Dink, 301, and a criminal complaint" (Hrant Dink, 301 ve bir suç duyurusu), I had criticized the prosecution against Dink for his use of the term "genocide" (soyk?r?m), declared that I myself had been using that term, called upon other Turkish intellectuals to join me in support of Dink, and challenged the authorities to accept my column as evidence of the same "offense" that Dink had committed. On October 12, Recep Akkus, a Turkish citizen filed a criminal complaint against me at the Eyüp district of Istanbul. The Eyüp public prosecutor referred the complaint to the Sisli district, where my publisher, Agos is located.
Because I do not maintain a legal address in Turkey, Agos publisher Serkis Seropyan and editor- in-chief Arat Dink (Hrant's son), were to be held liable for my column. It was alleged that my column had violated Articles 301/1 (insulting "Turkishness"), 214 (instigation to commit a crime), 215 (praise of a crime and a criminal--note that H. Dink had not even been tried yet), and 216 (instigation of group hatred and animosity).
Not wishing Agos to face prosecution on my account, I visited the Sisli prosecutor's office on Friday, January 5, accompanied by two attorneys for the newspaper, to file my response.
As soon as we arrived, the prosecutor dismissed the complaint against Seropian and A. Dink. "Mr. Akcam is here," he told the secretary, "so we don't need any testimony from the other two." He then left the office for a doctor's appointment. Another official took my statement.
I confirmed that I was the author of the column and that the text had not been altered. I declared that the policy of the Committee of Union and Progress against the Armenians in 1915 could be described as a genocide according to the United Nations definition of 1948. The column represented the free expression of my opinion. I had not written it at the behest of any organization or association. I was a professor of history and had published scholarly works on the topic. The column reflected my conviction as a scholar, based on my 15 to 20 years of research. I had expressed this conviction on numerous occasions in articles for Agos and other newspapers in Turkey. My scholarly works had been published in Turkish as well as in other languages. My intention was neither to insult, nor to further the agenda of, any racial or ethnic group, but rather to express my convictions the product of my scholarly research, according to my right of free speech. If I came across documented evidence against my point of view, then as a scholar, I could modify my position. My column was an expression of scholarly objectivity and freedom of speech. In writing it, I had not committed any crime.
The two attorneys from Agos formally requested that charges not be brought against me. They pointed out that similar cases had resulted in acquittal. They also argued that a discriminatory double standard was being enforced against Agos but not against other Turkish newspapers which had published similar statements.
I will be circulating English versions of my Oct. 6 column, the criminal complaint, my response, and the attorneys' arguments. I see two alternatives: either the Sisli prosecutor will bring charges against me or, based on the precedent of Elif Shafak's acquittal, the complaint will be dismissed and no charges will be brought. The attorneys and H. Dink see the hand of the Deep State in this matter and anticipate that because this same Sisli prosecutor has been responsible for the cases against Orhan Pamuk, Shafak, and H. Dink, I too am likely to face prosecution.
With thanks and best regards,
Taner Akçam Visiting Associate Professor Department of History Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies University of Minnesota
TRANSCRIPT OF COMPLAINT AGAINST TANER AKCAM (Trans. from Turkish)
>From the Office of the State Head Prosecutor at Eyüp To the Office of the State Head Prosecutor at Sisli
Complainant: Recep AKKUS ...
Suspect: Taner AKÇAM ...
Offense: TCK [Turkish Criminal Code] 301/1, 214, 215 and 216 [insulting Turkishness, inciting the commission of a crime, praising a crime and a criminal, inciting hatred, and enmity amongst the populace or crimes of degradation]
Investigation [faint stamp] 18-10-06 [faint stamped date] ...
DATE OF OFFENSE: Oct. 6, 2006.
SUBJECT: In the October 6, 2006, edition of AGOS Newspaper, page two, appearing in the corner column titled `Arada S?rada' (From Time to Time) in his article titled `Hrant Dink, 301 and a Criminal Complaint,' [the suspect] having made it obvious that he was defending the existence of an Armenian genocide, it is demanded that prosecution be initiated against the suspect, that his statements be evaluated in whole, and that this submission is based upon the acts having comprised the crimes of insulting Turkishness, TCK [Turkish Criminal Code] Article 301/1; inciting the commission of a crime, TCK Article 214; praising a crime and a criminal, TCK Article 215; inciting hatred and enmity amongst the populace, TCK Article 216; and therefore an indictment against the suspect and sentencing of punishment after prosecution is hereby demanded.
(1) In the October 6, 2006, edition of AGOS Newspaper, page two, appearing in the corner column titled `Arada S?rada' (From Time to Time) in his article titled `Hrant Dink, 301 and a Criminal Complaint,' the suspect wrote:
- `I am a person who often uses the word GENOCIDE in my weekly
articles for AGOS, not out of any special attention or interest, but BECAUSE I BELIEVE THAT THE EVENTS OF 1915 TO 1917 MUST BE VIEWED THAT WAY.'
- `If someone who often uses this word isn't prosecuted, but someone
else is - a person who responds once, during an interview, to a question like `Is it or isn't it?' -- then you have to see that there is a real miscarriage of justice.'
- `If only to minimize the injustice being done here, we have to join
in the crime that Hrant Dink is said to have committed. I request that the prosecutor accept my article as an admission of guilt.'
- `I believe that what occurred between 1915 and 1917 was genocide and
I say so at every opportunity that presents itself; I have written books, articles and weekly columns on this topic. If it's a crime to refer to what happened between 1915 and 1917 as genocide, then I commit this crime pretty much on a weekly basis.'
- `I invite everyone reading this article to participate in the crime
that Hrant Dink is accused of. We have to demand that we be prosecuted right along with Hrant.'
In making these statements, [the suspect] committed the following crimes:
(a) By claiming in his article that Turks are perpetrators of genocide, and of massacres, [the suspect] has committed the crime of insulting Turkishness, TCK 301/1. That the suspect is emphatic in his description of Turks as perpetrators of genocide, that he expresses [this claim] frequently in his articles, and [that he] uses the word [genocide] regularly, clearly establish that he is conscious of his actions and commits the crime with the requisite knowing intent.
(b) In the writing, the suspect invites everyone reading the article to participate in the crime that Hrant Dink is claimed to have committed and calls upon all readers to join in a complicit mutual crime. Therewith, the suspect has committed the crime of inciting the commission of a crime as defined in TCK Article 214.
(c) Throughout the article and in his statement that others should join in complicity with the crime that Hrant Dink is claimed to have committed, the suspect admits to having committed this crime himself, to having his article considered by prosecutors to be an admission of guilt, and to having committed the crime on a weekly basis in his writings, thereby constituting the act of praising a crime and a criminal as defined in TCK article 215.
(d) Throughout the article, by inviting the entire Armenian community and its supporters who live in Turkey to commit the crimes defined in the TCK, to organize themselves, to inculcate the belief that Turks committed genocide, the suspect incited Armenians and their supporters to develop a hatred and enmity towards Turks, thereby committing the crime of incitement of hatred amongst the populace as defined in TCK Article 216.
(2) Throughout the article, the suspect openly mocks the organs of justice, rebels against the Turkish justice system, and, directing his comments to one part of the population, uses provocative expressions against Turkish justice. It is impermissible that anyone be allowed to attack the organization of Turkish justice in this way. To protect the integrity of society, everyone must act within the framework of the law. It is essential for the basis of justice that those who act in violation of it be punished.
I submit that for the foregoing reasons, the suspect should be investigated and indicted for the crimes ascribed to him.
LEGAL CAUSES: TCK [Turkish Criminal Code], CMK [Criminal Law of Procedure], and other statutes.
PROOFS: Article appearing in the AGOS newspaper on Oct. 6, 2006, identification registry, and all other legal evidence.
DEMAND: By revealing his defense of the existence of an Armenian genocide in the article appearing in the corner column `Arada S?rada' (From Time to Time) in the Oct. 6, 2006, edition of AGOS newspaper, page two, [the suspect] asks to be prosecuted for the crime of insulting Turkishness; accordingly, I respectfully request that upon evaluation of the statements of the suspect in whole, that the suspect be indicted, prosecuted and punished for violating TCK Article 301/1, insulting Turkishness; TCK Article 214, inciting the commission of a crime; TCK Article 215, praising a crime and a criminal; and TCK Article 216, inciting hatred and enmity amongst the populace.
Oct. 12, 2006
Recep AKKUS (signature)
TRANSCRIPT OF TANER AKCAM'S DEPOSITION BEFORE TURKISH PROSECUTOR
(Trans. from Turkish)
T.R. [Republic of Turkey], Sisli State Head Prosecutor Investigation No: 2006/49047
Suspect's Statement Form PROSECUTOR TAKING STATEMENT: NSHAT ERGÜN ... LOCATION OF STATEMENT: State Prosecutor Room - 6th floor DATE OF STATEMENT: Jan. 5, 2007 IDENTIFICATION: TANER AKÇAM, born to Dursun and Perihan, in Ardahan, 1953. Registered in Kars, Ardahan, village of Ölçek ...
PERSONAL AND FINANCIAL SITUATION OF PERSON GIVING STATEMENT: FACULTY MEMBER - America, University of Minnesota, Professor of History.
In accordance with CMK [Criminal Code of Procedure] Article 147, after the suspect's identification was confirmed, his rights were explained to him, and he was reminded of his duty to answer questions about his identity honestly.
[The suspect] having declared that he wanted help in his defense and that his attorneys were available, his power of attorney was to be presented to Erdal Dosan, Esq., and Fethiye Çetin, Esq., of the Istanbul Bar ... [The suspect] having declared that he would grant formal power of attorney to them later, they were present at his defense, during the process of taking the statement.
In the presence of his defense attorneys, the suspect's rights under CMK [Criminal Code of Procedure] Article 147 were read to him again.
He was given a statement regarding his legal right to an explanation of the charges.
He was reminded that he had the right to gather concrete evidence to lift the accusation against him and that he would have the opportunity to present affirmative information on his behalf as well as evidence to remove the suspicion over him.
THE SUSPECT IN HIS OWN DEFENSE: The criminal charges were explained to him; he declared that he would give a statement in his defense. QUESTIONED: He declared:
I wrote the article titled `Hrant Dink, 301, ve Bir Suç Duyurusu' [Hrant Dink, 301 and a Criminal Complaint], which appeared in the Newspaper called `Agos,' published in the borough of Sisli on Oct. 6, 2006, at the end of the sheet of page two under the heading `Arada S?rada' (From Time to Time), with a byline of Taner Akçam, writer, written in black. The article which you have shown me here is comprised entirely of my own thoughts.
As I made clear in the article, I believe that the policy towards the Armenians in 1915, the policy of the Ittihad ve Terakki [Union and Progress] Party, meets the definition of genocide as set forth in the 1948 United Nations Convention on Genocide. I expressed this opinion in my article, relying upon the framework provided by freedom of the press.
I did not write this article to serve any organization or group. I am a professor of history. I have carried out research on the subject. The conclusion at which I arrived, as a result of this research, was reflected in that article. I have come to this conclusion over the past 15 to 20 years.
I have expressed my thoughts on the subject on a variety of occasions, not only in `Agos' but also in other media organs in Turkey. I have published academic books on the subject in Turkish as well as in other languages.
I did not write [this article] with the intent to insult a nationality or to further the interests of a particular race or ethnic group. I reflected the thoughts which I have developed over time, based upon research studies, in my writings, within the framework of freedom of the press and democratic freedom of thought. This is how I think on the subject. As new information or documentation could cause me to change my position on the matter, I may later also express a different opinion.
I am a social scientist and I act within the principles of objectivity and freedom of the press. In writing the article, I do not believe that I committed a crime. I am innocent.
STATEMENT OF THE SUSPECT'S LEGAL REPRESENTATIVE: ERDAL DOSAN ... He stated:
In addition to agreeing to the foregoing statement, the issues which were identified by the individual who petitioned for a criminal summons against my client, called forth as the suspect, namely, the crimes of insulting Turkishness, inciting to commit a crime, praising a crime and a criminal, and inciting hatred or enmity amongst the populace, were not committed by my client; moreover, the aforesaid newspaper article reflects conclusions based on studies which he has defended for many years.
Defining something as genocide is not a crime; neither can it be considered as the object of a criminal statute such as `praising a criminal.' Such opinions are entirely the result of research and study and come within freedom of thought. There is no support under CMK [Criminal Code of Procedure] Article 170/4-5 for either an abstract or concrete source of crime to justify an indictment being issued here.
Regarding the investigation in question, I demand that a decision to dismiss be issued in accordance with CMK Article 172/1. If an indictment is issued and prosecution sought in spite of this request, then we believe that it will disturb societal peace and security because the aforementioned opinions are thoughts which have been voiced by a variety of people and historians for many years.
If in fact a decision is made to indict and prosecute, then its illegality and the baseless nature of the charges will be even more evident in the presence of those who will be called as complainants to the trial. The individuals who are behind the criminal complaint are [illegible] people. I am of the opinion that this [matter] will have to be evaluated in this way.
STATEMENT OF THE SUSPECT'S LEGAL REPRESENTATIVE: FETHIYE ÇETIN ... The case was explained to her and she was questioned. She stated:
I concur with the statements of my client and my colleague. The writing in question is obviously both abstract and objective. As such, it does not have the qualities of a crime. Use of the word `genocide' has never been defined as a crime in any part of our criminal code. In similar cases that have been brought, the defendants have been acquitted. For example, the decisions in favor of writers like Elif Shafak have set a clear and definite [precedent].
Various individuals [have expressed similar opinions] in the press and media organs. The opening of a case solely against `Agos' newspaper and this writer, for use of this word, could be regarded as a case of arbitrariness. For this reason, I demand that a decision to dismiss be issued.
In accordance with the requirements of CMK Article 147, the contents of this transcript were read to the suspect and the signatures affixed at the bottom of the transcript.
Jan. 5, 2007
AKCAM'S COLUMN FROM THE OCT. 6, 2006 EDITION OF "AGOS"
(Trans. from Turkish)
Hrant Dink, 301 and a Criminal Complaint
By Taner Akçam
With the ink not yet dry on Elif Shafak's case, we're faced with yet another article 301 matter. Hrant Dink will appear before a judge for having used the word `genocide' during an interview.
If Elif's case was in the realm of comedy, Hrant's is downright tragic. It's said that over 60 cases have been tried under Article 301. I don't know if any of them involved anyone using the word `genocide,' but I have a hard time understanding why Hrant, of all people, is being prosecuted.
Just look at his writings, look at his talks. You won't find one single instance of the word `genocide,' because he never used it. Anytime he was asked if a genocide took place or not, he'd crack a smile. He didn't place a whole lot of importance on which word was necessary to describe what happened. `You call it what you want,' he would say. `I know what happened to my people.'
I don't recall that Hrant ever took an interest in the legal label for the events of 1915. That side of the issue didn't concern him; the human side did. From what I can remember, he even wrote on the subject. `A nation which once lived here is no more. It was pulled out by its roots, like a tree. Their lives here were ended. I can't put into words this human tragedy, this ending of a life.' It was words like this that came out of him.
The real question for Hrant, his primary concern, was never about what happened. It was about how to construct a positive future after all the negativity we've seen. I know from our private conversations that he preferred to stay away from the word `genocide' because of the tension it created and because it didn't do very much to resolve the problem.
Why do I bother to bring all this up? If saying `genocide' is a crime and we need to prosecute everyone who uses the word, then Hrant's name should not be on the list. It makes no sense to say that this crime has been committed by someone like Hrant.
For that matter, there's even a comic side to the issue -- a personal offense, if I may say so. Look, there is a serious `injustice' going on here. I am a person who often uses the word `genocide' in my weekly articles for AGOS, not out of any special attention or interest, but because I believe that the events of 1915 to 1917 must be viewed that way. If someone who often uses this word isn't prosecuted, but someone else is -- a person who responds once, during an interview, to a question like `Is it or isn't it?' -- then you have to see that there is a real miscarriage of justice.
In all seriousness, though, it's no coincidence that Hrant is facing charges -- just as it's no coincidence that the laws on foundations have not been reformed as they apply to minorities. I believe that these two issues arise from the same systemic problem. Turkey is unable to relate to the groups defined as minorities according to its laws, either on an individual or an institutional basis.
In one of his statements Hrant declared that he'd been especially targeted. This is true. He's been targeted mainly because he's an ethnic Armenian. The only conclusion you can draw is that for someone of Turkish descent, using the word `genocide' doesn't present a problem, but for an Armenian, it does.
If only to minimize the injustice being done here, we have to join in the crime that Hrant Dink is said to have committed. I request that the prosecutor accept my article as an admission of guilt: `I believe that what occurred between 1915 and 1917 was genocide and I say so at every opportunity that presents itself; I have written books, articles and weekly columns on this topic.' If it's a crime to refer to what happened between 1915 and 1917 as genocide, then I commit this crime pretty much on a weekly basis.
I invite everyone reading this article to participate in the crime that Hrant Dink is accused of. We have to demand that we be prosecuted right along with Hrant.
It's especially important for people who don't say `genocide,' who actually have a problem with the word, to show their support for Hrant. Those who don't use it need to speak out in defense of those who do, to show that their usage cannot be considered criminal.
Is it a crime to say `genocide'? If anyone needs to defend themselves, it shouldn't be us. It should be those who make it a crime to talk about history. Turkey is about to face a serious test.
UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA'S LETTER OF SUPPORT FOR TANER AKCAM
University of Minnesota Twin Cities Campus Department of History College of Liberal Arts
January 12, 2007
Statement in support of Taner Akçam
Dr. Taner Akçam, a visiting professor of history at the University of Minnesota since 2002, is subject to criminal investigation in Turkey for asserting that the Armenian deportations of 1915-17 constituted a genocide. Charges are pending under Turkey's notorious Articles 301.1 (`insulting Turkishness'), 214 (`instigation to commit a crime'), 215 (`praise of a crime and a criminal'), and 216 (`instigating public animosity and hatred'). We are gravely concerned about this threat to freedom of expression and academic freedom.
Professor Akçam was invited to the University of Minnesota by the Department of History and the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, with support from colleagues in the Law School and the College of Liberal Arts. There was and is great interest in his work on late Ottoman history and the Armenian Genocide, the legal aspects of the Genocide, and the relation of these events to issues of democratization in Turkey and the region. Akçam's scholarship has been lauded by scholars and intellectuals across the globe, including in Turkey despite the longstanding official policy to deny the Armenian Genocide.
The University of Minnesota's Department of History and Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies consider Akçam to be one of the foremost historians of the late Ottoman Empire and the Armenian Genocide. Professor Akçam, in addition to researching the subject, seeks reconciliation between Armenians and Turks so that both peoples can develop a normal and productive relationship in the 21st century.
Professor Akçam, the first Turkish intellectual to recognize the Armenian Genocide as such, is the latest to be investigated for `insulting Turkishness.' Other high-profile targets include, in recent months, Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk, novelist and professor Elif Shafak of the University of Arizona, and Istanbul Armenian journalist Hrant Dink.
We support Taner Akçam's right to academic freedom and freedom of expression. We utterly reject the efforts by official Turkish sources to stifle his speech and publications.
Dr. Eric D. Weitz Professor and Chair of History, Arsham and Charlotte Ohanessian Chair in the College of Liberal Arts
Dr. Stephen Feinstein Director, Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies