Author, 92, cleared of Islam insult

Suzan Fraser

Thursday, November 02, 2006

A court in Istanbul acquitted a 92-year- old retired archaeologist who 
was tried for saying that Islamic-style head scarves date back more than 
5,000 years - several millennia before the birth of Islam - and were 
worn by priestesses who initiated young men into sex.

Muazzez Ilmiye Cig, an expert on the ancient Sumerian civilization of 
Mesopotamia, which arose around the third millennium BC, was the latest 
person to go on trial in Turkey for expressing opinions, despite intense 
European Union pressure on the country to expand freedom of expression.

She is one of dozens of writers, journalists and academics who have been 
prosecuted, including this year's Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk and 
novelist Elif Shafak. Charges of insulting Turkishness against Pamuk 
were dropped over a technicality earlier this year, and Shafak was 

Unlike Pamuk and Shafak, who were tried under Turkey's notorious Article 
301, which sets out punishment for insulting the Turkish Republic, its 
officials or "Turkishness," Cig was accused of insulting people based on 
their religion.

In a trial that lasted less than an hour, Cig rejected the charges 
saying: "I am a woman of science ... I never insulted anyone," private 
NTV television reported.

The court ruled in her favor on grounds that her actions did not 
constitute a crime.

The trial took place a week before a crucial European Union report on 
Turkey's progress toward membership, which is expected to chide Turkey 
for slipping in its reform program, and not acting to change laws that 
have been used to curb freedoms - in violation of EU human rights standards.

The trial against Cig was initiated by an Islamic-oriented lawyer who 
was offended by claims made in her recently published political book, My 
Reactions as a Citizen, in which she says that the earliest examples of 
head scarves date back to Sumerian times, when veils were worn by 
priestesses who helped young men learn about sex.

Pro-secular groups came to the trial in a show of support for the 
archaeologist, who retired in 1972 and has written 13 books. ASSOCIATED 

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Brooks Isoldi, editor

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