EU says Turkey must improve freedom of speech-TV

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ISTANBUL, Oct 6 (Reuters) Turkey must move ahead with laws ensuring freedoms of religion and expression and prosecuting writers for criticising Turkish identity is unacceptable, a senior EU official told Turkish television.

Turkey has said it remains fully committed to joining the European Union, but key reforms such as an amendment or withdrawal of article 301, which can be used to prosecute writers for ''insulting Turkishness'', are not likely to be passed before an EU progress report in November.

''It is a human and moral issue. It is not acceptable that writers like Orhan Pamuk and Elif Safak are prosecuted based on this article,'' EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn told Turkish NTVMSNBC.

Before the case against him was dropped, Pamuk was tried in Turkey last year for telling a Swiss newspaper that 1 million Armenians had died in Turkey during World War One and 30,000 Kurds had perished in recent decades.

Charges against novelist Safak were also dropped last year.

Opponents of the law also say Turkish Armenian editor and journalist Hrant Dink was murdered last year after being singled out because of his prosecution under the law.

Recent efforts by Turkey's ruling party to change the country's constitution also should not delay reforms in expanding freedoms of expression and religion, Rehn added.

''The changes (to the constitution) can be a method for expanding fundamental rights and freedoms. But the preparations should not delay the realisation of freedoms of expression or religion,'' he said.

Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has said previously the new constitution will strengthen individual rights and freedoms, but Turkish officials say article 301 will not be revised or overwritten in the new document.

Lack of attention to laws regarding freedom of speech by the ruling AK Party have led to criticism that the party is being selective in its reform process.

REUTERS TB AS0113

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