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Turkish journalists go on trial for state slander

[JURIST] Five Turkish journalists went on trial Monday on charges of "insulting state judicial organs" and "trying to influence the judicial process." Prosecutors filed these charges in December for comments regarding the government's attempts to ban a conference [JURIST report] on the alleged genocide of 1.5 million Armenians [Armenian National Institute website] under the Ottoman Empire in World War I. If convicted, the journalists could face sentences between six months and ten years, though similar cases have typically ended in fines or acquittal. Four of the five defendants have been charged with violating Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code [Amnesty International backgrounder], which makes it a crime to insult Turkish identity. Critics view Article 301 as anti-democratic and a way for the state to suppress dissent and opinion [Amnesty backgrounder].

Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk [TIME profile; JURIST news archive] also faced charges for the same infraction, but the charges were dropped [JURIST report] last month, a decision which was welcomed [JURIST report] by the European Union [official website], which is considering Turkey's bid to become a member state. Ismet Berkan, one of the defendants in the current trial, attributed the trial to refusal of some leading government officials to accept EU freedom of expression standards. Reuters has more.

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