TURKEY CHARGES NOVELIST OVER REMARKS ABOUT MASS DEATHS
Orhan Pamuk could face three years in prison for speaking about his
nation's alleged slaying of Armenians and, more recently, Kurds.

By Amberin Zaman, Special to The Times

Los Angeles Times, CA
Sept 1 2005

ANKARA, Turkey - Orhan Pamuk, one of Turkey's best-known novelists,
has been charged with insulting the nation and its people for speaking
out against the mass deaths of Armenians during and after World War
I and the more recent killings of Kurds, his publisher said Wednesday.

Pamuk will go on trial in December and could face three years in
prison under the country's revised penal code, which deems denigrating
Turks and Turkey a punishable offense, Iletisim Publishing said in
a written statement.

Officials declined to comment on the charges. Turkish law prohibits
Pamuk from commenting on his case while it is pending.

Pamuk drew nationalist ire here and even received anonymous death
threats after he told the Swiss daily newspaper Tagesanzeiger in an
interview published Feb. 6 that "30,000 Kurds and 1 million Armenians
were killed in these lands and nobody but me dares to talk about it."

Turkey has long denied that more than 1 million members of its
once thriving Armenian community were the victims of systematic
annihilation between 1915 and 1923. Armenians and many others label
the campaign genocide.

The Turkish government position is that several hundred thousand
Armenians died as a result of exposure, famine and disease as they
journeyed to Syria after being deported for collaborating with invading
Russian forces.

Pamuk's most recent bestselling novel, "Snow," explores tensions
between Turkey's secular elite and religious conservatives.

News of Pamuk's case came a day before European Union foreign ministers
were scheduled to meet in Wales, mainly to discuss Turkey's bid to
join the 25-member bloc. The EU has long cited Turkey's checkered
record on human rights as the chief obstacle to membership.

Turkey won a date to open membership talks after its parliament passed
numerous reforms that, among other steps, eased restrictions on the
language spoken by the country's large Kurdish minority. The talks
are scheduled to begin Oct. 3. Several countries, including France,
are seeking to block Turkey's entry amid mounting public opposition
to the inclusion of a large, poor and predominantly Muslim country.

Other critics charge that Turkey's new penal code, which came into
force in June, still falls short of EU standards by proscribing free
debate of the Armenian tragedy and criticism of Turkey's 1974 invasion
of the Mediterranean island nation of Cyprus.

"How can Turkey possibly claim to be a European country if it has
such laws on the books and prosecutors can bring such cases?" British
novelist Maureen Freely, who translated "Snow" to English, said in an
editorial published Wednesday in the Independent, a London newspaper.

Some EU diplomats speculated that the case against Pamuk was timed by
elements within the Turkish government seeking to derail the country's
membership in the alliance.

"This can only be the work of those within the Turkish state who
stand to lose influence under the [EU-oriented] reform process,"
said a Western diplomat who asked not to be identified, reflecting
a common practice among envoys. "How else can one explain the case
being launched so long after Pamuk's statement?"

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress