Thursday, April 27, 2006

Turkey a Laughing Stock

It would certainly be safe to say that no story about Turkey since the trial of Orhan Pamuk has elicited as much international attention as the strange case of Veysel Dalci, a regional leader of the ruling Ak Parti who was arrested earlier this week for insulting Kemal Ataturk's memory. His crime? Chewing gum during a wreath-laying ceremony in honor of the founding of the Turkish parliament.

As in the Pamuk case, Dalci has run afoul of overly-broad and ambiguous laws designed to protect the Turkish republic from internal enemies, but which in fact serve to quell dissent and free expression. Unlike the Pamuk case, however, the international response has not been outrage and calls for judicial reform in Turkey. This case has been met with derisive laughter instead. Here's a sampling of the fun headline writers across the globe are having with this story:While the Dalci case may seem like an oddity, the legal mentality that made it possible is no laughing matter. So far the Turkish authorities have not responded to international outrage, even as they continue their bid for EU membership. Perhaps they will respond better to ridicule.

For his part, Dalci, who has been released on bail, plans to press charges against the prosecutors and judges who assented to his arrest. Unfortunately, based on comments by a high-ranking AKP official, his suit is not likely to be aimed at the rationale for the existence of such anti-democratic laws. Instead, it appears that he will take the Bill Clinton route and contend that he had gum in his mouth but he didn't chew. And he didn't like it.
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