Mother pleads For Turkish scholar’s release from Armenian jail

The mother of a Turkish researcher facing up to eight years in prison for attempting to take old books out of Armenia pleaded with the authorities in Yerevan on Monday to set him free and end his controversial prosecution.

Gulsin Turkyilmaz spoke to RFE/RL after visiting her 33-year-old son Yektan in a maximum security prison in Yerevan where he has been kept since his arrest on June 17. “I hope that they won’t imprison him,” she said. “If he knew that [he is violating Armenian laws] he wouldn’t do that.”

Turkyilmaz was allowed to see his mother the day before the start of his trial which is expected to be attended by representatives of Duke University in North Carolina where he is pursuing a Ph.D. in Ottoman history. The unusually harsh charges leveled against him have drawn protests from U.S. academic circles, prominent Turkish intellectuals and a retired pro-Armenian U.S. senator.

The first Turkish academic to be granted access to Armenia's national archives, Turkyilmaz is prosecuted under Article 215 of the Armenian Criminal Code that calls for between 4 and 8 years’ imprisonment for the contraband of anything ranging from antique books to weapons of mass destruction. He was detained at Yerevan’s Zvartnots airport while boarding a plane bound for Istanbul.

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