April 30th, 2008 07:48 EST
Insulting 'Turkishness' decriminalized in Turkey
The European Union has welcomed a vote by Turkish lawmakers to approve changes to a law that places limits on free speech.
The EU presidency, which is currently held by Slovenia, called the vote a "constructive step forward in ensuring freedom of expression." The presidency also said it looks forward to effective implementation of the changes.
Early Wednesday, Turkey's parliament voted (250 to 65) to amend an article in the penal code that made it a crime to insult "Turkishness."
The new version of the law makes it instead a crime to insult the "Turkish nation." It also reduces the maximum sentence from three years to two years.
The European Union criticized the previous version of the law. The bloc has said Turkey must ease restrictions on free speech as part of its application for EU membership.
The amendments also require Turkey's justice minister to approve investigations into possible violations of the law.
However, Turkish writers and other activists say the changes do not go far enough. They say other laws still exist that restrict freedom of expression.
Turkish authorities have used the law to prosecute hundreds of writers and other people suspected of insulting Turkey's national identity or institutions.
The changes must be approved by Turkey's president to take effect.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.