Turkije annuleert controversiële rechtzaak tegen schrijver Orhan Pamuk (en)

Turkish authorities have dropped charges against the novelist Orhan Pamuk, ending a trial which has drawn sharp criticism from Brussels for curbing rights on freedom of speech.

Reports by CNN Turk television on Sunday night (22 January) said an Istanbul court had withdrawn its charges against Mr Pamuk, according to European media.

Mr Pamuk had been charged by prosecutors of "denigrating Turkishness" after telling a Swiss paper in an interview "30,000 Kurds and 1 million Ottoman Armenians were killed in Turkey and no-one dares to talk about it."

The Istanbul court had in December adjourned the trial, referring the case to the justice ministry which had to rule on whether it was in accordance with a new penal code, adopted by Turkey in the run-up to the opening of accession talks with the EU last October.

But Turkish justice minister Cemil Cicek on Sunday rejected responsibility for the case, prompting the court to drop the charges.

The decision is set to be welcomed by the European Commission, which sharply criticised the proceedings against Mr Pamuk.

On the eve of the scheduled date of the trial, on 16 December, EU enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn said "It is not Orhan Pamuk who will stand trial...but Turkey."

"This is a litmus test whether Turkey is seriously committed to the freedom of expression and reforms that enhance the rule of law and benefit all Turkish citizens," he added.

But Ankara is also likely to keep on drawing EU fire for other, pending cases involving freedom of expression.

According to a recent report by Amnesty International, there are over 60 pending cases of journalists, writers and other intellectuals who have allegedly broken article 301 of the revised Turkish penal code.

Article 301 forbids Turkish citizens from denigrating the Turkish identity, the republic, the Grand National Assembly, the government, the judicial branches or the military.

The European Commission has urged Ankara to revise article 301, saying it does not safeguard freedom of expression in its current form.

Turkey started formal accession talks with the EU on 3 October last year.

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