European Court Rules for American Scholar in Freedom-of-Expression Case

A professor at Clark University, in Worcester, Mass., has won a judgment in the European Court of Human Rights that a controversial provision of Turkey’s penal code that criminalizes “denigrating Turkishness” violates freedom of expression. The scholar, Taner Akçam, brought the case in 2007 after criminal complaints were filed against him in Turkey for an article he had written in 2006 criticizing the prosecution of a journalist who had been charged under the provision and who was later killed by extremists.

Mr. Akçam’s academic work has focused on the killing of as many as 1.5 million Armenians during the waning days of the Ottoman Empire, which modern Turkish governments have refused to characterize as genocide, and he now holds what Clark University describes as “the only endowed chair in the world dedicated to research and teaching on the subject of the Armenian genocide.”

“Affirming the Armenian issue as ‘genocide’ is considered by some (especially extremist or ultranationalist groups) as a denigration of ‘Turkishness,’” the court noted, and academics and journalists have been among the most prominent targets of the penal-code provision.

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