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Turkish professor sentenced to 15 months for 'insulting Ataturk legacy'

[JURIST] A Turkish court on Monday sentenced political science professor Atilla Yayla Monday for "insulting the legacy" of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey. Yayla was charged [JURIST report] last March after suggesting in a November 2006 speech that Ataturk's regime from 1925 to 1945 was not as progressive as suggested by official Turkish literature. Yayla's lawyers say they will appeal the verdict. Yayla was charged under Law No. 5816 [HRW backgrounder], which prohibits "crimes committed against Ataturk." Individuals who publicly "insults or curses the memory" of Ataturk may be subject to a prison term of up to three years.

Many prominent Turkish journalists, authors, and academics have also been tried for insulting "Turkishness" [JURIST report] under the controversial Article 301 [Amnesty backgrounder; JURIST news archive] of Turkey's penal code [text, in Turkish]. Critics accuse Turkey of using the law to silence government critics, which has posed a major stumbling block [JURIST report] to Turkey's accession to the European Union. BBC News has more.

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