Brussels, 18 November 2008
Commissioner for Enlargement
rue de la Loi 200
Dear Commissioner Rehn, dear Olli,
I am writing to express my concern at reports of a Turkish court compromising freedom of expression in the context of Turkey’s application to join the EU.
I would like you to investigate the specific example given below and attempt to see if it forms (as we fear) part of a wider picture of concern, and take the matter up with the Turkish authorities.
The example we cite relates to the blocking of the website of Professor Richard Dawkins, the world-famous evolutionary biologist. A criminal court in Istanbul reportedly banned the site in September 2008 on the grounds that it ‘violated’ Adnan Oktar’s personality after Professor Dawkins criticised Oktar creationist book ‘Atlas of Creation’, which is being distributed in Europe in large numbers.
The basis of our complaint is the web/press reports shown in Appendix 1, which were drawn to my attention by the UK’s National Secular Society of which I am a Honorary Associate. I am also writing as the Chair of the EU Working Group for the Separation of Religion and Politics.
Such blockings are in stark contrast to the progress you have been calling for as one of the conditions for Turkey’s succession to the EU. What is happening is worse than Turkish authorities not standing up for freedom of expression; it appears that the state’s mechanism itself is enforcing the restriction on freedom of expression.
Our concern about the banning does not rest in principle on Professor Dawkins’ eminence; however the court’s decision is all the more worrying, given it is difficult to think of anyone more qualified than him to speak on science matters, being the Chair for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University. http://www.simonyi.ox.ac.uk/index.shtml
We believe it essential that the EU remains committed to insisting that countries are not permitted to accede until they conform to fundamental rights. We admire your work in this area and note in Appendix 2 below a number of references you have made to requiring Turkey to improve freedom of expression, for the benefit of others who read this letter, which we regard as an open one.
I look forward to receiving confirmation that you intend to investigate the matter, and subsequently what action you intend to take, including making references to renewed concerns in your reports about the progress being made by candidate states in the vital areas of fundamental rights.
Sophie in ’t Veld MEP