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Controversial Trials Divide Turkish Society

Middle East Media Research Institute

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World Media and E.U. Question AKP Government's Commitment to Freedom of Speech and the Rule of Law

The trial of internationally acclaimed Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk, who is charged with "denigrating Turkishness" under the new Turkish Penal Code, and the violent protests by nationalists against Pamuk and E.U. parliamentarians attending his trial, have drawn worldwide attention to the question of the Turkish government's commitment to the principles of democracy, freedom of expression, and the rule of law.

Pamuk's case is one of many recent trials of writers, journalists, and academicians. Also currently underway is the trial of the president of Yuzuncu Yil University in Van, Professor Yucel Askin, for alleged procedural misconduct. Prof. Askin's incarceration is thought by Turkey's secularists to be an attempt by the Islamic government to remove a secular republican president from a university that was known, until he took office in 1999, as a hotbed for Islamists.

In response to remarks critical of Askin's incarceration and trial, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the critics - prominent Turkish businessmen - were guilty of crimes "against the Constitution" and called on state prosecutors to act against them. The very next day, the Ankara Prosecutor's Office launched an investigation against the businessmen; later the investigation was expanded to include 77 university rectors who had also expressed support for Askin.

The following is a review of commentary in the Turkish press on these developments:

Novelist Orhan Pamuk Charged With "Denigrating Turkishness"

Recently, world media attention focused on the trial of internationally acclaimed Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk, whose books have been translated into more than 40 languages. Pamuk, a nominee for the 2005 Nobel Prize for Literature, was charged with "denigrating Turkishness" for saying in a February 2005 interview to the Swiss weekly Das Magazin that "one million Armenians and 30,000 Kurds were killed in these lands, and no one dares talk about it but me." His statement is considered an offense according to Article 301 of the new Turkish Penal Code, which stipulates a three-year prison term for such offenses. Some 60 other Turkish journalists and writers are facing similar charges, and seven have already been sentenced.

Read the entire article on the Middle East Media Research Institute website (new window will open).

Posted: 09-Jan-06



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