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AFP
The European Commission lamented Wednesday a Turkish court ruling against an ethnic Armenian journalist for "denigrating the Turkish national identity," warning the case could cloud Ankara's EU hopes.

Commenting on an appeal court ruling on Hrant Dink, editor of the bilingual Turkish-Armenian weekly Agos, EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn called on the Turkish government to bolster freedom of speech in the country. "I am disappointed by this judgment which limits the exercise of freedom of expression in Turkey," he said, following Tuesday's court ruling, the first such judgment based on article 301 of Turkey's new Penal Code.

He noted that ruling "will set the trend for lower jurisdiction to follow when applying article 301 in the future," adding: "This is all the more serious since there are still a number of similar court cases pending. I would therefore urge the Turkish authorities to amend article 301 and other vaguely formulated articles in order to guarantee freedom of expression in Turkey," he said.

Rehn underlined that freedom of expression is a key principle of the EU's so-called Copenhagen political criteria, which Ankara must adhere to if it one day wants to join the currently 25-nation bloc. "In any case, the Commission will review the situation in light of the Copenhagen political criteria in its upcoming Progress Report," Rehn said, referring to an annual report on Ankara's EU preparations due in October.

Turkey began EU entry talks last October, but the negotiations are likely to take at least a decade and Ankara has been warned there is no guarantee of eventual membership.

Dink was convicted in October for an article about the collective memory of the mass killings of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire, which many countries recognize as genocide. He now faces the risk of going to prison if he commits a similar offense over the next five years.

(Photolur photo: Hrant Dink.)
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