WILL THE SHOW GO ON?

The show trial, that is. Orhan Pamuk’s trial is due to begin Friday, 16 December, 2005:

Pamuk’s case needs Justice Ministry green light

The New Anatolian / Ankara

First hearing in trial of acclaimed writer set for Friday, but may not go forward without ministry say-so

The Criminal Court of First Instance is seeking the Justice Ministry’s green light for the soon-to-start trial of author Orhan Pamuk, who is charged with denigrating Turkish identity, reported daily Milliyet yesterday.

Under the previous Turkish Penal Code (TCK), if the ministry doesn’t authorize the trial, the case will be dropped automatically. However, it is unclear whether the old or the new TCK will be used.

In an interview earlier this year, Pamuk told Swiss Das Bild’s magazine that one million Armenians and 30,000 Kurdish people were killed in Turkey, and he was later charged by the Sisli Public Prosecutor’s Office, seeking prison time from six months to three years.

However, the Justice Ministry said that authorization isn’t required under the new TCK, and that both the TCKs stipulate the same prison terms if Pamuk is convicted.

The first hearing is set for Friday in Istanbul with Pamuk’s attendance. Under the previous TCK’s Article 106/2, if the necessary authorization doesn’t arrive by the trial date, Pamuk’s trial may not go forward.

Nobel laureates support Pamuk

Writers Jose Saramago, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Gunter Grass yesterday issued a written statement expressing support for Pamuk.

Besides the three writers, all previous winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature, famous writers Umberto Eco, Carlos Fuentes, Juan Goytisolo, John Updike, and Mario Vargas Llosa also signed the statement, saying that Pamuk’s case is incompatible with the rule of law.

Guess who else supports Pamuk? Salman Rushdie. Here are some of his remarks from two months ago on the charges against Pamuk, from The Times:

That Pamuk is criticised by Turkish Islamists and radical nationalists is no surprise. That the attackers frequently disparage his works as obscure and self-absorbed, accusing him of having sold out to the West, is no surprise either. It is, however, disappointing to read intellectuals such as Soli Ozel, a professor of international relations and a newspaper columnist, criticising “those, especially in the West, who would use the indictment against Pamuk to denigrate Turkey’s progress toward greater civil rights — and toward European Union membership”.

Ozel wants the charges against Pamuk thrown out at the trial in December, and accepts that they represent an “affront” to free speech, but prefers to stress “the distance that the country has covered in the past decade”. This seems altogether too weak. The number of convictions and prison sentences under the laws that penalise free speech in Turkey has indeed declined in the past decade, but International PEN’s records show that more than 50 writers, journalists and publishers currently face trials. Turkish journalists continue to protest against the (revised) penal code. The International Publishers Association, in a deposition to the UN, has described this revised code as being “deeply flawed”.

“Deeply flawed.” That’s a nice way to put it.

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