Turkish scholar acquitted of inciting religious hatred
A 92-year-old scholar, the latest of a number of Turkish intellectuals to face trial for expressing their opinions, was acquitted by an Istanbul court on Wednesday.
(The New York Times, The Scotsman - 02/11/06; AP, Reuters, AFP, BBC, CNN, Euronews, International Herald Tribune, Hurriyet, Jurist, International Association for Assyriology - 01/11/06)
It took an Istanbul court only about half-an-hour on Wednesday (November 1st) to acquit a 92-year-old historian, tried on charges of insulting Muslim women and inciting religious hatred.
The accusations against Muazzez Ilmiye Cig stemmed from a book the retired expert on Sumerian civilisation wrote last year. The veteran researcher claimed that the headscarf was first used about 5,000 years ago by Sumerian priestesses initiating young men into sex. They wore the veil to distinguish themselves from other priestesses in the temple, according to the author.
Offended by Cig's assertion, Izmir-based lawyer Yusuf Akin filed a complaint against her. Charges of "insulting a certain group of people on the basis of religion" were then brought against the scholar and her publisher, Ismet Ogutcu.
"I am a person of the Ataturk revolution, and as a Turkish woman I try to bring people together," Cig told the court during the first trial hearing on the case Wednesday, referring to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the modern Turkish republic. "I'm not someone who is trying to incite hatred."
Shortly afterwards the three-judge panel ruled that Cig's statements did not constitute a crime and the charges were dropped. Had they been convicted, both Cig and her publisher faced up to 18 months in prison.
Headscarves are common in predominantly Muslim, but secular, Turkey. However, they are banned from many public places, including government offices and universities.
Cig, who retired more than 30 years ago and is the author of 13 books, is the latest of many Turkish intellectuals to have been brought to trial over their views, or because of remarks they have made. Others include Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk and novelist Elif Shafak.
The latest trial opened shortly before the European Commission is due to release a critical report on Turkey's progress towards EU accession on November 8th. The Cig case reportedly has been criticised by Brussels.
It also drew fire from the International Association for Assyriology (IAA). "A veteran researcher who, throughout a long career, has contributed to the recovery of the ancient past, Dr. Cig is a model representative of Turkish contribution to scholarship," the IAA said in a statement on Tuesday, appealing for the dismissal of the charges.