Letter to the European Parliament on Turkey’s
banning of

by Sophie in ‘t Veld MEP

Brussels, 18 November 2008

Olli Rehn,
Commissioner for Enlargement,
European Commission,
rue de la Loi 200,
1040 Brussels.

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

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.

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.

Yours sincerely,
Sophie in i’t Veld MEP


Greg L-W.