Friday, December 16, 2005

Orhan Pamuk

Orhan Pamuk, Turkey's most famous novelist, appeared in court today to face charges of 'denigrating Turkishness and the republic.' The judge promptly halted the trial, however, and scheduled it to resume in early February pending a government review.

I had heard a lot about Pamuk's prosecution, which was sparked by an interview in which he held Turkey responsible for the
Armenian genocide and the oppression of the Kurds. But I didn't realise that the law he was charged with violating had been passed four months after he made the remarks. Apparently this sort of ex post facto case requires approval from the Turkish justice ministry, and the prosecutors haven't got it yet. After court was adjourned, the minister of justice said it would take a long time to examine the file, then blamed the media for stirring things up.

I suspect the government is planning to let the case drop. This is no surprise, since the prosecution has provoked an international outcry and caused many foreign politicians to question Turkey's fitness to join the EU. Letting Pamuk off on a technicality would allow Turkey to get out of the mess without losing face. Unfortunately, it would also leave the wider issues unaddressed.

(On a personal level, all this has me thinking I should read Pamuk's Snow, which has been sitting on my 'to-be-read' shelf for a while now.)


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