One Charge against Pamuk Dropped

ANKARA (Combined Sources)–Turkish state prosecutors have dropped one of two criminal charges against best-selling author Orhan Pamuk.

The charge for allegedly insulting Turkey’s armed forces was dropped–but Pamuk still faces charges that he insulted "Turkishness," lawyers said.

Nationalist lawyers had petitioned prosecutors to file criminal charges against Pamuk for reportedly telling a German newspaper–Die Welt–in October this year that the military threatened and prevented democratization in Turkey.

Prosecutors on Thursday decided there were no grounds to try Pamuk for insulting the military–said nationalist lawyer Kemal Kerincsiz–who had petitioned the prosecutors asking for Pamuk’s trial.

Kerincsiz said he would appeal the decision on Friday.

"It is of course not possible for the prosecutors to make a sound decision under so much pressure," said Kerincsiz. "We’ve come to the point where we’re no longer able to protect our national values. Where will it all end?"

Kerincsiz said the army was portrayed as the enemy of democracy–which he called a "grave insult."

Pamuk reportedly told Die Welt: "I don’t see the (ruling Islamic-rooted) Justice and Development Party as a threat to Turkish democracy. Unfortunately–the threat comes from the army which sometimes prevents democratic development."

The novelist still faces trial on a charge under a law which makes insulting Turkey a crime. The charges stem from a Swiss newspaper report in February that quoted him as saying–"30,000 Kurds and 1 million Armenia’s were killed in these lands–and nobody but me dares to talk about it."

European officials have criticized Turkey for putting Pamuk on trial for the "insulting Turkishness" charge and have called on the country to do more to protect freedom of expression.

Brussels has described the case as a litmus test of Turkey’s European Union membership credentials.

The trial was halted the day it began–when an Istanbul judge said the case needed the justice ministry’s approval. It was adjourned until February 7.

The justice ministry’s permission is being sought because of a dispute over whether Pamuk is to be tried under Turkey’s old penal code or a recent–revised version.

Pamuk’s lawyers have argued that he must be tried under the old code–requiring the justice minister to give a ruling.

Pamuk is being tried under the new Article 301–which makes it illegal to insult the republic–parliament–or any organs of state. A guilty verdict can carry a prison sentence of up to three years.

Pamuk has the highest profile among a group of more than 60 writers and publishers facing similar charges in Turkey.

On Wednesday–Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul acknowledged that charges brought against Pamuk had tarnished the country’s image and said laws that limit freedom of expression may be changed.

It was the first time the government indicated it could amend laws making it a crime to insult Turkey.

But the government would rather wait and see the outcome of charges brought against Pamuk and dozens of other people before moving to amend them–Gul said.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan also assured that laws could be changed if there are serious flaws.

"We should not hurry. This is a new law–let’s see how it works–what the outcomes are," Erdogan said in reference to the law used to put Pamuk on trial for insulting "Turkishness."

"If there are serious problems–then of course the legislature will sit down–make a new assessment and take a new decision."

In an interview published on Thursday–Pamuk told daily Aksam newspaper that the government should carry out real–not cosmetic–reforms to expand freedom of expression if it really wants to become a member of the EU.

"For a country to enter the EU–there has to be full respect of minority rights–freedom of thought and expression," Pamuk said. "If you drag your feet and make cosmetic changes… then this won’t do. To believe that you would need to be a child."

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