Berechting Pamuk uitgesteld tot februari 2006 (en)

The trial of world-renowned Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk, charged with "denigrating Turkishness", was adjourned only minutes after the author's first court appearance.

Istanbul judge Metin Aydin said in the early morning on Friday (16 December) that the prosecution could not proceed until it had been approved by the ministry of justice.

Mr Pamuk is on trial for denigrating Turkishness, after an interview in Swiss newspaper Tages Anzeiger in February, in which the author said "30,000 Kurds and one million Ottoman Armenians were killed in Turkey and no-one dares talk about it."

The Istanbul court wishes to prosecute Mr Pamuk under an old version of the Turkish penal code, according to which permission from the justice minister is needed.

The court argues that Mr Pamuk should not be tried under a new penal code, because his infamous remark was made before the new code came into force in June.

On Friday morning, no reaction had come from the justice ministry in Ankara, and the trial was therefore postponed until 7 February.

Mr Pamuk's defence lawyers in Istanbul pleaded in vain for a total acquittal of the best-selling Turkish author who may be sentenced for up to three years in prison if found guilty.

Courtroom of emotions

Friday's hearing was closely watched by world-wide human rights activists, journalists, politicians, diplomats and intellectuals - as well as large groups of Mr Pamuk's slanderers.

A group of MEPs (amongst others Camiel Eurlings and Joost Lagendijk) who had travelled to Istanbul to observe the trial, said the hearing inside the courthouse was chaotic and "a big mess".

With more than a hundred people crammed into the courtroom, designed for around 20 people, events became very aggressive, the group's spokesperson said.

Ultra right-wing nationalists outside the courtroom, chanted "traitor" throughout the one-hour long session and, on leaving the court, Mr Pamuk was pelted with eggs and insults.

British MEP Geoffrey Van Orden, a member of the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee participating in the parliament's expedition to Istanbul, said that it was not only Mr Pamuk on trial, but also Turkey for bringing the case up.

"If Pamuk had not been prosecuted, hardly anyone would have noticed his remarks", he said.

Brussels not impressed with Pamuk case

A spokesperson for enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn said that the commissioner had taken notice of the postponement, but that this "did not change the substance of the matter".

"The commission regrets that Turkey did not seize the opportunity to acquit Pamuk in the name freedom of expression of all Turkish citizens", she said.

In the wake of the trial, Mr Rehn raised a warning finger towards Ankara, saying that the accession demands for Turkey are non-negotiable, and that Turkey as an EU candidate state must be truly committed to the basic democratic principle of free speech.

The parliamentarian group in Istanbul said that the ministry of justice's refusal to react to the prosecutor's request for a trial permission - or denial- was making matters worse for the government in Ankara.

Independent judges have questioned the Turkish government's commitment to freedom of speech as the EU requires from its members, arguing that if it was really committed to free speech then it would not have adopted a law about "Turkishness" in the first place.

MEPs in Istanbul noted that Mr Pamuk's case is only one out of many similar ones endangering EU membership.

According to an Amnesty report, there are over 60 pending cases of journalists, writers and other intellectuals in Turkey who are facing charges similar to those directed at Mr Pamuk.

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