Turkey’s Justice Minister Questions Innocence after Pamuk Case Dropped

(Slate/Zaman)–Turkey’s Minister of Justice Cemil Cicek criticized writer Orhan Pamuk’s long silence after the press published his expressions of "Armenia’s being subjected to genocide," reports the Turkish newspaper Zaman.

The trouble began last February–when Pamuk told the Swiss news magazine Das Magazin that "one million Armenia’s and 30,000 Kurds were killed in these lands and no one but me dares talk about it." For this statement–Pamuk received death threats from Turkish nationalists and was eventually charged under a new Turkish law with "insulting" the Turkish Republic. When he went on trial in December–he faced up to three years in prison.

The charges were dropped this week only because the government refused to weigh in on the case. The court did not repudiate the law under which Pamuk was charged–a new law that was–ironically–slipped into an EU reform package–or even admit that the charges were wrong. More disturbingly–numerous other writers and journalists still have cases pending under similar charges.

But minor considerations for Cicek who told Zaman–"If Orhan Pamuk had declared ‘I did not say the expressions that were published,’ these cases would not have been filed and these difficulties would have been avoided."

"While Pamuk was giving his [May 17] deposition to the public prosecutor–he told the prosecutor that ‘I did not utter the word genocide. I am proud of being Turkish and I didn’t intend to insult.’ However–these words remain only between them–and were not revealed to the public."

The Justice Minister admitted flaws in the Turkish Justice System but determined Pamuk was–nevertheless–guilty.

The conservative German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung has also criticized the writer–expressing disappointment that Pamuk hasn’t lived up to his billing as a dissident. Last summer–a critic for the paper asked–"Just what exactly does he really stand for?" More recently–a series of articles suggested that Pamuk might be "backing down" from his earlier commen’s about the Armenian genocide. (In fact–Pamuk merely pointed out well-known historical facts about casualties; he never used the word "genocide.")

So–in the end–Turkey’s greatest writer has offended both Turkish hard-liners and German conservatives for failing to make his allegiances clear. But it is arguably Pamuk’s mixed message–that Turkey desperately wants and needs Europe even as it thumbs its nose at fundamental European notions of justice and truth–that will prove most accurate in hindsight.

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