A European rights watchdog urged Ankara on Thursday to change a law that many Turks say fuels hardline nationalism and contributed to the murder of a prominent Armenian editor.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe said Turkey should scrap article 301 of its penal code which makes it a crime to insult Turkey's identity, state institutions and security forces. "The existence of this measure, which judicially limits freedom of expression, only validates legal and other attacks against journalists," a resolution passed by the assembly said.
Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink was gunned down last week by a Turkish youth who said Dink had insulted Turks.
Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said on Wednesday he supported changes to the law. The European Union has also called on Turkey, an EU candidate, to abrogate the law.
Dink, like dozens of other Turkish intellectuals, had been prosecuted under article 301 for his writings on the massacres of Armenians by Ottoman Turks during World War One -- a highly sensitive issue in Turkey. Dink's murder shocked the country and brought more than 100,000 people onto the streets of Istanbul on Tuesday. His death has put the ruling AK Party again on the defensive over article 301.
Analysts say the government is dragging its feet despite repeated promises because the AK Party does not want to look soft amid a rise in nationalism during an election year.
Turkish media reported on Thursday that five people were charged in Dink’s murder. Istanbul's chief prosecutor Aykut Cengiz Engin charged Ogun Samast, a 17-year-old unemployed man from the Black Sea coast, with premeditated murder and membership of an armed group. Four others were charged with forming an armed organization and incitement to murder.
Samast, who is reported to have been close to an ultranationalist group in his home town Trabzon, has admitted to shooting Dink in daylight as he left his newspaper Agos in Istanbul last Friday.
"From the quality and the nature of the crimes attributed to the suspects it is clear the result emerges that they formed an armed group," Engin told reporters late on Wednesday in comments reported by the NTV Web site. Engin said the fact that the suspects were remanded in custody did not mean that a case would be opened soon. Prosecutors will now prepare an indictment against the suspects.
Yasin Hayal, a known nationalist militant, has admitted to inciting his friend Samast to kill Dink, the police said. Hayal served 11 months in jail for the 2004 bombing of a McDonald's restaurant in Trabzon.
Dink, who worked for reconciliation between Christian Armenians and Muslim Turks, had been prosecuted for his views on the massacres of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915. He was among intellectuals, including Nobel Literature Prize winner Orhan Pamuk, who have been prosecuted under laws restricting freedom of expression in Turkey.