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Armenian Conference in Istanbul & Turkish Researcher in Yerivan

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  • #31
    U.S. University Renews Calls For Turkish Student’s Release

    U.S. University Renews Calls For Turkish Student’s Release

    By Emil Danielyan

    A representative of the prestigious Duke University in the United States reiterated on Monday its calls for the release of a Turkish doctoral student who is standing trial in Armenia for allegedly trying to smuggle old books to Turkey.

    Armenian prosecutors, however, remained clearly unwilling to drop their unusually harsh charges brought against Yektan Turkyilmaz despite his insistence that he was unaware of Armenian laws regulating the export of objects that are deemed “cultural or historical values.” The 33-year-old scholar also exposed his frustration with his two-month incarceration as he was cross-examined in a district court in Yerevan.

    “We are very concerned about Yektan’s case,” Orin Starn, a Duke University professor and Turkyilmaz’s doctoral advisor, told RFE/RL as he attended the trial. “We know that he is a wonderful person and a brilliant scholar. We know that he has committed to speaking about the facts of 1915, the Armenian genocide.”

    “I’m here to let it be known that Duke University fully supports Yektan,” he said. “I am the supervisor of his dissertation and I can not believe that he would knowingly break the law in any way. So I hope for his speedy release.”

    The president of Duke University, Richard Brodhead, wrote to President Robert Kocharian on August 1, calling for the scholar’s release. "As the leader of a great country, you have the ability to intervene in this matter and to determine the appropriateness of the actions of your government and the Armenian prosecutors and police," he said. Kocharian has not yet responded to the letter, according to Starn.

    Turkyilmaz was arrested at Yerevan’s Zvartnots airport on June 17 as he boarded a plane bound for Istanbul. Customs and security officials found him carrying 89 secondhand books on Armenian history and culture that were published more than 50 years ago. Under an Armenian law that came into force last January, they can not be taken out of the country without a written authorization of the Ministry of Culture.

    Turkyilmaz insists that he was not aware of the requirement. However, this has not kept the authorities from prosecuting him under an article of the Armenian Criminal Code that envisages between four and eight years in prison.

    Many scholars in the United States and Turkey believe that the offence was not serious enough to warrant imprisonment. More than 200 of them have signed an open letter to Kocharian that demands an end to the controversial prosecution. Among the letter’s signatories are prominent Turkish intellectuals that recognize the 1915-1918 Armenian massacres in Ottoman Turkey as genocide as well as Hrant Dink, editor of the Istanbul-based Armenian newspaper “Agos.”

    Dink was also present at Monday’s court proceedings in Yerevan. “It must be admitted that Yektan certainly did something wrong with regard to the laws of the Republic of Armenia,” he told RFE/RL. “But Yektan is not a criminal. He is a serious intellectual. He committed a serious offence unintentionally and you just can’t use books for criminal prosecution. Such things are not accepted in the world.”

    Dink, who himself is facing a possible jail sentence in Turkey for publicly emphasizing his Armenian heritage, also pointed out that Turkyilmaz is among few Turkish academics who openly question Ankara’s decades-long denial of the Armenian genocide. “We [Istanbul’s Armenian community] have a handful of Turkish intellectuals standing by our side and Yektan is one of them,” he said.

    Meanwhile, Turkyilmaz, who has repeatedly visited Armenia in recent years and became last May the first Turkish national to be granted access to the National Archive in Yerevan, again denied the smuggling charges on Monday as he was relentlessly questioned by the trial prosecutor, Koryun Piloyan. “I know that I violated a law but I did that unknowingly and feel guilty for that,” he said.

    But according to the indictment read out by Piloyan on Friday, the defendant was aware of the existing procedures for the export of rare books and other artifacts. At the heart of that accusation is the pre-trial written testimony of the owner of an antique shop in Yerevan, Armen Khorenian, who claimed to have warned Turkyilmaz of the need to have an official permission.

    But Khorenian appeared to contradict himself on Friday, telling the court that “Yektan may have not understood what I mean.” Several traders from whom Turkyilmaz bought the books, two of them printed in the 17th century, testified that they themselves lack knowledge of the relevant legal requirements and never discussed them with the Turkish scholar.

    Turkyilmaz also retracted his own pre-trial statement that he actually sent one Armenian book, published in Venice in 1885, to Istanbul through his sister Zeynep who visited him in Yerevan in late May and early June. That testimony forms the basis of one of the two counts of smuggling on which Turkyilmaz is being prosecuted. Piloyan repeatedly mentioned it during the cross-examination.

    The defendant claimed that in reality he gave the book to one of his Yerevan friends and simply did not want the investigators from the National Security Service, the Armenian successor to the Soviet-era KGB, to interrogate him. “I have been visiting Armenia for the past three years and I have developed a circle of friends here and established contacts with academics,” he said, speaking in Turkish through an interpreter. “But because of this case my relationships with them have suffered an incredible damage. Everyone who has dealt with me has been summoned to the KGB for questioning.

    “I said that I sent the book to Turkey through my sister because she wasn’t here [during the investigation] and nobody could therefore interrogate her. I have not taken a single book out of Armenia.”

    “I have bought only those books that are within the sphere of my professional interest,” he said when asked by Piloyan about reasons for his interest in old Armenian books. “I never regarded them as cultural relics. They were of interest to me only from the intellectual and academic standpoint.”

    Turkyilmaz looked increasingly frustrated and showed signs of despair as he was grilled by the prosecutor. “I’ve been in such a mental state during my detention that I don’t know if it can be cured afterwards,” he stated at one point
    "All truth passes through three stages:
    First, it is ridiculed;
    Second, it is violently opposed; and
    Third, it is accepted as self-evident."

    Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)


    • #32
      Turkish researcher sentenced in Armenia for smuggling

      Turkish researcher sentenced in Armenia for smuggling
      Published: 8/16/2005

      YEREVAN - An Armenian court on Tuesday handed down a two-year suspended sentence to a Turkish researcher studying at a US university for trying to smuggle ancient books out of Armenia.

      Yektan Turkyilmaz, from Istanbul, studied ancient local texts at Yerevan libraries for two weeks but was arrested in mid-June at the capital's airport when several 17th-century books, some carrying library stamps, were discovered in his luggage.

      The books' value was estimated at several million dollars (euros).

      The 33-year-old had been facing a maximum five-year prison sentence or a fine of up to 2,300 dollars.

      He left the courthouse a free man after a two-month detention, saying "I have been and I still am a friend of Armenia".

      He said he would return to the United States to pursue his studies in anthropology.

      08/16/2005 17:32 GMT
      "All truth passes through three stages:
      First, it is ridiculed;
      Second, it is violently opposed; and
      Third, it is accepted as self-evident."

      Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)


      • #33
        Turkish Scholar Freed After Two-Month Arrest In Armenia

        Turkish Scholar Freed After Two-Month Arrest In Armenia
        By Emil Danielyan and Ruzanna Khachatrian

        RFE/RL - YEREVAN, 08/16/2005: Yektan Turkyilmaz, a Turkish scholar
        who was arrested in Armenia two months ago, walked free from a court
        in Yerevan on Tuesday after being given a two-year suspended prison
        sentence for attempting to illegally take old Armenian books out of
        the country.

        The court in the city's Malatia-Sebastia district convicted Turkyilmaz
        of two counts of smuggling but chose not to imprison him at the
        last-minute request of state prosecutors that cited his partial
        acknowledgement of his guilt and cooperation with investigators. The
        doctoral student of the U.S. Duke University will have to stay in
        Armenia until the verdict's formal entry into force on August 31. He
        will then be free to leave the country and visit it again.

        "I'm now free, right?" an incredulous Turkyilmaz asked journalists
        that surrounded him immediately after the announcement of the ruling.
        "I am happy to be free," he said after hearing a positive answer. "I
        now want to concentrate on my doctoral dissertation. I was, I am and
        I will remain a friend of the Armenians."

        The presiding judge, Karen Farkhoyan, also upheld the confiscation of
        88 secondhand Armenian books which Turkyilmaz bought in Yerevan and
        wanted to take with him to Istanbul. All of those books were published
        more than 50 years ago, with four of them dating back to the 17th and
        18th centuries. Under an Armenian law that took effect last January,
        they can not be taken abroad without a written permission of the
        Ministry of Culture.

        Turkyilmaz had no such permission when customs and security officers
        at Yerevan's Zvartnots airport found and confiscated those books on
        June 17. Both during his arrest and throughout his short trial he
        insisted that he was unaware of the requirement. Nonetheless, he was
        charged under an article of Armenia's Criminal Code that envisages
        between four and eight years' imprisonment for the contraband of
        "cultural-historical values," narcotics and weapons.

        "I believe that the accusations leveled against the defendant are
        absolutely substantiated," the trial prosecutor, Koryun Piloyan,
        said in his concluding remarks.

        Piloyan dismissed the defendant's arguments that the books, most
        of them relating to the activities of Armenian nationalist parties
        in the Ottoman Empire, were needed for his doctoral studies at the
        prestigious U.S. university. "I don't want to discuss his doctoral
        dissertation or events that took place in Anatolia from 1908-38,"
        he said. "We are investigating a criminal case regarding smuggling."

        The prosecutor then cited "mitigating circumstances" such as
        the defendant's young age and his "at least partly truthful court
        testimony" to invoke another clause in the Criminal Code that envisages
        largely symbolic prison sentences.

        "I regret what happened and accept that as a result of my inconsistency
        and indifference, I did not know legal requirements existing in the
        Republic of Armenia and failed to obtain permission for the books
        in a manner defined by the law," Turkyilmaz send in his final court
        speech which he delivered in Armenian.

        "As I said earlier, I never sought to violate the laws of the Republic
        of Armenia or to cause any damage to the Republic of Armenia and the
        Armenian people," he added. "I therefore ask the court to be forgiving
        to myself and apply the softest possible punishment."

        Turkyilmaz's release was welcomed by Orin Starn, a representative
        of Duke University who attended the trial. "Duke University is very
        pleased that Yektan has been given his freedom," Starn told RFE/RL.
        "The books that Yektan collected were a reflection of his interest
        in Armenia. I know that Yektan will do wonderful work that will help
        us to understand the history of this region and the facts of the
        Armenian genocide."

        The Duke University president as well as over 200 U.S., Turkish
        and Armenian scholars have sent open letters to President Robert
        Kocharian calling for the release of their colleague. They said the
        punishment initially sought by Armenian prosecutors is too strict and
        unjustified. It is not clear if their protests have played a role
        in the prosecutors' eventual decision not to seek the imprisonment
        of the Turkish citizen of Kurdish origin. Officials in Kocharian's
        press service could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

        Individuals accused of smuggling have rarely ended up in prison in
        Armenia. This fact raised questions about reasons for the severity of
        the charges brought against Turkyilmaz. The latter's interrogations by
        officials from the National Security Service (NSS), which conducted
        the pre-trial investigation into the case, reportedly focused on his
        academic work and political beliefs.

        The electronic copies of his research material collected at Armenia's
        National Archive were also confiscated and closely examined by NSS
        investigators. The Malatia-Sebastia court ordered them to return the
        CDs to the scholar.

        Turkyilmaz, who has repeatedly visited Armenia since 2003, became last
        May the first Turkish national who asked for and was granted access
        to the Armenian state archives. He said on Tuesday that despite his
        two-month ordeal he wants to conduct more research at the archives
        and may again visit them as early as this week.

        "I have not yet finished my work there and am glad that I will stay
        in Yerevan for 15 more days," Turkyilmaz told reporters. "I love
        this city."
        "All truth passes through three stages:
        First, it is ridiculed;
        Second, it is violently opposed; and
        Third, it is accepted as self-evident."

        Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)


        • #34
          Bob Dole

          Bob Dole
          August 17, 2005

          Dear Mr. President,

          I want to express my sincere gratitude to you and the people of
          Armenia in the wake of the recent release of Yektan Turkyilmaz,
          the Duke University graduate student detained since June 17.

          Yektan's release symbolizes a crucial step in Armenia's commitment
          to democracy. Thank you for your encouraging leadership in this
          important matter.

          Bob Dole

          H.E. Robert Kocharian
          Republic of Armenia
          "All truth passes through three stages:
          First, it is ridiculed;
          Second, it is violently opposed; and
          Third, it is accepted as self-evident."

          Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)