[JURIST] A judge in Turkey [JURIST news archive] Thursday acquitted Turkish novelist Elif Shafak [personal website] on charges that she "insulted the Turkish identity" in violation of Article 301 [Amnesty International backgrounder] of the country's penal code, for comments referring to an Armenian genocide [Wikipedia backgrounder] contained in one of her books. As many as 1.5 million Armenians were killed in the then-Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1917 in what Armenians consider a genocide; Turkey has insisted that the deaths do not constitute genocide [Turkish DC Embassy backgrounder]. Shafak was acquitted shortly after the trial started because the judge said there was too little evidence to convict her. Some of the prosecutors withdrew from the trial before it ended because they claimed the judge was under pressure to throw out the case.
Turkey is currently seeking membership to the European Union (EU) [official website], which has urged [JURIST report] Turkey to abolish Article 301 because it infringes upon the freedom of expression. Despite revising [JURIST report] portions of the penal code last year, Turkish leaders are torn over whether to eliminate the article completely, fearing the potential impact on government elections scheduled for next year given that nationalists favor the law. Criminal prosecutions have been brought against several other prominent writers for discussing the alleged Armenian genocide, including Hrant Dink and Orhan Pamuk [JURIST reports]. Reuters has more.