A Turkish prosecutor has launched an investigation into an Armenian-Turkish journalist for calling the World War I massacres of Armenians a genocide, a news report said Tuesday.
The probe may or may not lead to Hrant Dink, editor of the bilingual newspaper Agos, being prosecuted for insulting "Turkishness," the Dogan News Agency reported. He could be imprisoned if charged and convicted. Dink said he was aware of the reports but had not been officially notified about the probe. The prosecutor in Istanbul could not be reached for comment.
The investigation was launched over Dink's statement to a western news agency in which he said: "Of course I say it was genocide... With these events you see the disappearance of a people who lived on these lands for 4,000 years."
The Turkish government insists the mass evacuation and related deaths of Armenians living in Turkey from 1915 to 1923 does not amount to genocide and says the death toll of 1.5 million is inflated.
Dink said he was surprised by the probe. "I had no intention of insulting Turkishness," Dink said. "My only concern is to improve Armenian and Turkish relations."
The new probe comes just days after a Turkish high court confirmed a six-month prison sentence imposed on Dink for attempting to influence the judiciary after Agos ran articles criticizing the law which makes it a crime to insult Turkishness. Dink's sentence, however, was postponed.
The law, which also brings penalties for insulting Turkish officials or government institutions, has been used to bring charges against dozens of journalists, publishers and scholars. The European Union has warned Turkey that the law could seriously hamper efforts to join the bloc.
Author Elif Safak, a University of Arizona assistant professor, was recently charged with "insulting Turkishness" because of the words uttered by fictional Armenian characters in her novel "The Bastard of Istanbul." Turkish courts dropped similar charges against acclaimed novelist Orhan Pamuk earlier this year following an international uproar.