December 16, 2005

Trial of Turkish author Pamuk adjourned, EU watches

By Ercan Ersoy

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - The trial of best-selling Turkish
novelist Orhan Pamuk was adjourned on Friday in a case that has
raised concern in the European Union over freedom of expression
in Turkey and its bid for EU membership.

Istanbul Judge Metin Aydin said the trial would restart on
February 7, 2006, to give the Justice Ministry time to decide
whether the case was in line with judicial procedures at the
request of the state prosecutor.

Pamuk faces a possible three-year jail term for "insulting
Turkish identity" by saying that a million Armenians were
killed in massacres 90 years ago and 30,000 Kurds in recent
decades -- issues he says are taboo in the country.

His defense lawyer Haluk Inanici told the judge: "We are
asking the court to immediately start the interrogation of
Pamuk and we demand that he be acquitted."

The judge said he was waiting for the Justice Ministry to
return the Pamuk file with its decision on how to proceed with
the case because his interview with a Swiss newspaper was
published before Turkey's new penal code came into effect.

The trial is embarrassing for the government, which blames
overzealous prosecutors. But the fact the case has come this
far has raised questions about Ankara's appetite for
implementing the reforms necessary to join the European Union.

"It's very disappointing. This case should never have been
brought to this stage. The adjournment is only an attempt to
save face. It will do nothing but prolong the case. We hope for
an acquittal in the end." said Daniel Hahn of Human Rights

On Thursday, EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn
underlined EU concern about limits on freedom of expression in
Turkey, which started membership talks with the bloc in

Rehn warned Turkey that the trial put Ankara in the dock
over its commitment to European values.

Outside the packed court, European Parliament member Camil
Eurlings told reporters: "If Turkey wants to continue toward
the EU, and I hope it will, then really freedom of expression
is a fundamental necessity."

A group of protesters shouted: "Traitor Pamuk. Love
(Turkey) or leave." They booed him leaving court house, either
pelting his car with eggs or attacking it.

Turkey's best known novelist and author of "My Name is Red"
and "Snow" is charged under Article 301 of the revised Turkish
penal code, which has been widely criticized abroad.

(Additional reporting by Daren Butler)