Crime of insulting Mustafa Kemal Atatürk; exact charge and punishment; precedents [TUR38432.E]

According to the Law Concerning Crimes Committed Against Atatürk/ Aleyhine Islenen Suçlar Hakklnda Kanun (No. 5816, Adopted on 25 July 1951) quoted by Human Rights Watch:

Article 1
Anyone who publicly insults or curses the memory of Atatürk shall be imprisoned with a heavy sentence of between one and three years.
A heavy sentence of between one and five years shall be given to anyone who destroys, breaks, ruins, or defaces a statue, bust, or monuments representing Atatürk or the grave of Atatürk.
Anyone who encourages others to commit the crimes outlined in the paragraphs above will be punished as if committing the crime.
Article 2
If the crimes outlined in the first article are committed by a group of two or more individuals, or publicly, or in public districts or by means of the press will have the penalty imposed increased by a proportion of one-half.
If the crimes outlined in the second paragraph of the first article are committed using force... the penalty will be doubled... (Feb. 1998).

A number of reports also refer to Law 5816 as the one concerning insults toward, or toward the memory of, Atatürk (Washington Institute for Near East Policy May 2001; U.S. English Foundation, Inc. 2000; HRW Feb. 1999; IHF 1998; Inter-Parliamentary Union 12 Sept. 1998; AI 1998). The IFEX report of 11 June 1999 is alone among sources consulted that specifies the law as "5818."

In terms of punishment, the following individuals were sentenced to 18 months imprisonment; poet Yilmaz Odabasi (HRW 2001; IFEX 11 June 1999), publisher Unsal Ozturk (Turkish Daily News 17 May 1996) and politician Hasan Mezarc (AI 1998; IHF 1998; Inter-Parliamentary Union 12 Sept. 1998). Reportedly, Ozturk's sentence was "converted" to a fine (Turkish Daily News 17 May 1996), Odabasi (Odaba i) served only six months (HRW 2001), and Mezarc (Merzarci) served 10 months of his term in 1996 (AP 9 Apr. 2001; Turkish Daily News 6 Feb. 2002). Mezarc was convicted for insulting the memory of Atatürk a second time in 1998 and he returned to prison for a one-year sentence in 2002 (ibid.). A research report issued by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in May 2001, citing Country Reports 1998 noted that in 1998, "128 members of Aczmendi Sufi order were sentenced to two and six years in prison for 'insulting Atatürk and disobeying security forces." The same report noted that for insulting Atatürk, both Mayor Sükrü Karatepe, served a reduced sentence of "four months and twenty-six days" in 1998 and Mayor Zeki BaBaran of Agri, was removed from office also in 1998 (ibid.).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Associated Press (AP). 9 April 2001. "Police Detain Former Turkish MP who Declared Himself the Messiah." (NEXIS)

_____. 18 February 2000. "Turkish Court Sentences Islamic Group Members to Prisons." (NEXIS).

Amnesty International (AI). 1998. Turkey. /ar98/eur44.htm [Accessed 15 Mar. 2002]

Human Rights Watch. 2001. "World Report 2001: Appendix." [Accessed 15 Mar. 2002]

_____. February 1999. Violations of Free Expression in Turkey [Accessed 15 Mar. 2002].

_____. February 1998. "List of Turkish Laws Violating Free Expression: Translated Excerpts from Laws and Decrees." [Accessed 18 Mar. 2002].

IFEX Action Alert. 11 June 1999. "Poet Detained" (NEXIS)

International Helsinki Federation of Human Rights (IHF). 1998. "Turkey." [Accessed 15 Mar. 2002]

Inter-Parliamentary Union. 12 September 1998. "Case N° TK/63 - Hasan Mezarci - Turkey." [Accessed 15 Mar. 2002]

Turkish Daily News [Ankara]. 6 February 2002. "Hasan Mezarci Starts Jail Sentence." (NEXIS)

_____. 17 May 1996. "Published Ozturk Sentenced for 'Insulting Ataturk.'" [Accessed 15 Mar. 2002]

U.S. English Foundation, Inc. 2000. "Research on Other Countries: Turkey" [Accessed 15 Mar. 2002]

Washington Institute for Near East Policy. May 2001. Research Note 10. Niyazi Günay. "Implementing the 'February 28' Recommendations: A Scorecard." [Accessed 19 Mar. 2002].

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sites including

Ab Haber: Turkey EU News Online

British Council Turkey

Foreign Intelligence Country Page

Global IDP Project

Hellenic Resources Network

Human Rights Watch


Internet Law Library

Law Portal of Turkey

The Turkish Constitution hosted by Hellenic Resources Network

Turkish News Press Review

Search Engines