Turk Novelist May Face Jail for Genocide Comments

ANKARA (Reuters)–Best-selling Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk faces up to three years in jail for saying that Armenia’s suffered genocide at the hand of the Ottoman Turkish government 90 years ago–his publisher said on Wednesday.

Turkish prosecutors are also investigating commen’s by Pamuk that some 30,000 Kurds were killed more recently in Turkey in separatist clashes with security forces.

"A lawsuit has been filed against Orhan Pamuk that could result in a three-year prison sentence," Iletisim Publishing said in a statement faxed to Reuters.

Pamuk made his commen’s about the Armenia’s and the Kurds during an interview published on Feb 6–2005–in Das Magazin–the weekly supplement of Swiss newspaper Tages Anzeiger.

"Thirty thousand Kurds and 1 million Armenia’s were killed in these lands and nobody but me dares to talk about it," Pamuk was quoted as saying in the interview.

His remarks drew an angry reaction from Turkish nationalists and politicians at the time–and the author even received anonymous death threats.

The public prosecutor in Istanbul’s Sisli district found that Pamuk’s remarks violated Turkey’s newly revised penal code–which deems denigration of the "Turkish identity" a crime–the publisher of Iletisim–Tugrul Pasaoglu–told Reuters.

Pasaoglu said the first hearing in Pamuk’s trial was scheduled for December 16.

The prosecutor’s office declined to comment on the case.

SENSITIVE ISSUE

Ankara has long denied that Armenia’s suffered genocide–or systematic killing–at Ottoman hands during and after World War I–saying they were victims of partisan fighting which also claimed the lives of many Muslim Turks.

Turkey is also very sensitive to portrayals of the Kurdish issue. Its security forces have been battling separatist guerrillas in Turkey’s impoverished southeast since 1984. Fighting has recently flared up after a period of relative calm.

Pamuk is best known as the author of historical novels set in Ottoman Turkey–including "My Name is Red" and "The White Castle." His recent novel "Snow" is a meditation on love and politics in modern Turkey. His book "Istanbul" is a personal memoir of growing up in Turkey’s sprawling biggest city.

His books have been widely translated into English and other foreign languages.

Pamuk’s trial is likely to prove embarrassing for the Turkish government as it prepares for the launch of European Union entry talks on October 3. The EU has said Ankara must meet European standards on freedom of expression.

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