- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 17, 2005

ISTANBUL — A judge halted the trial of Turkey’s best-known novelist yesterday, saying the Justice Ministry must first approve the explosive legal case that raises questions about the country’s commitment to free speech.

Judge Metin Aydin’s insistence that the ministry first approve the case against Orhan Pamuk for insulting national honor is forcing Turkey’s politicians to grapple with whether they are willing to press forward with a high-profile trial despite opposition from the European Union.

The head of the European Parliament delegation monitoring the trial, which opened yesterday and was closed after a half-hour, warned that the hearings were “very bad for Turkey’s image in Europe.”

Turkey began accession talks with the European Union on Oct. 3, and Dutch conservative Camiel Eurlings cautioned that the impact of the Pamuk trial on those talks “could be huge, and it could be negative.”

In a brief statement to the press, Mr. Pamuk said “it is not good for Turkey, for our democracy, for such freedom of expression cases to be prolonged.”

He faces up to three years in prison for telling a Swiss newspaper in February that Turkey is unwilling to deal with painful episodes in its treatment of the country’s Armenian minority or its continuing problems with its 12 million Kurdish citizens.

Prosecutors have charged him with insulting the Turkish Republic and “Turkishness,” a charge that requires Justice Ministry approval.

The court applied Dec. 2 for Justice Ministry approval. Rather than drop the case, Judge Aydin said he would wait for the government’s answer.

Justice Minister Cemil Cicek indicated that he was in no rush to give approval. The court is scheduled to meet again Feb. 7.

The deep emotions that the case has stirred were obvious at the trial yesterday.

As Mr. Pamuk left the courthouse, a group of several dozen nationalists shouted “Traitor,” “Turkey is ashamed of you” and “Shame on you,” and pelted his car with eggs. Mr. Pamuk was escorted by riot police, who used shields to push the crowd back.

Mr. Pamuk, who has often been mentioned as a candidate for the Nobel Prize in literature, told the Swiss newspaper that “30,000 Kurds and 1 million Armenians were killed in these lands, and nobody but me dares to talk about it.”

Mr. Pamuk, in an essay in the New Yorker magazine to be published in its Dec. 19 issue, wrote that “what stained a country’s ‘honor’ was not the discussion of the black spots in its history but the impossibility of any discussion at all.”

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