A Turkish court Thursday acquitted a prominent Turkish journalist in a freedom of speech case linked to debate over the mass killings of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire, the Anatolia news agency reported.
The court ruled that Murat Belge, a columnist for the daily Radikal, did not insult the judiciary when he criticized a court decision that briefly blocked a landmark conference last year on the massacres, a long-standing taboo that Turks have only recently began to discuss. The judge dropped similar charges against Belge over a second critical article on the same issue, citing the statute of limitations, Anatolia reported.
Belge risked up to 10 years in jail for the two articles. The European Union has repeatedly warned Ankara that the prosecution of intellectuals for exercising their right to free speech is damaging Turkey's membership bid.
Charges against four other leading journalists, who had been indicted with Belge in the same case, were dropped in April because their articles fell under the scope of the statute of limitations.
A landmark conference contesting Ankara's official line on the Armenian massacres -- recognized as genocide by many Western countries -- was blocked in September when a court, petitioned by a group of nationalists, ordered the suspension of the event. It was held the following day after the organizers changed the venue to circumvent the court order.
The ruling came under widespread criticism, including harsh words by the EU and even the Turkish government, which backed the event in a bid to prove its tolerance of dissenting views.