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Last Updated: Friday, 16 December 2005, 17:59 GMT
Turk writer's insult trial halted
Orhan leaves court in Istanbul
The trial has generated intense interest in Turkey
The trial of Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk, accused of insulting his nation, has been halted on its first day.

An Istanbul judge said the case needed approval by the ministry of justice.

Mr Pamuk is accused over remarks about the alleged mass killing of Kurds and Ottoman Armenians - deaths Turkey insists cannot be classed as genocide.

In a brief statement, Mr Pamuk said he regretted not being able to make his defence, adding that a lengthy trial would not be good for democracy.

The European Union has described the case as a litmus test of Turkey's eligibility to join, warning that it is Ankara - rather than Mr Pamuk - that is going on trial.

"It is not good for Turkey, for our democracy, for trials concerning freedom of thought - which should never happen in the first place - to be lengthy affairs," Mr Pamuk's statement read.

Legal wrangle

The Istanbul courtroom was packed with Mr Pamuk's supporters and opponents on Friday.

According to the AFP news agency, a woman demonstrator struck Mr Pamuk on the head with a folder as he was entering the building, to the sound of a crowd accusing him of treason.

The judge ruled that the justice ministry must give its approval to the prosecution before the trial could proceed.

HAVE YOUR SAY
The trial should definitely not go ahead
W.M.,Wishaw

The next hearing was set for 7 February 2006.

As he left the building, Mr Pamuk was again assailed by demonstrators.

Some called him a traitor, and shouted: "Turkey is ashamed of you". His car was pelted with eggs as it pulled away.

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

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

Genocide accusation

In an interview published on Friday in a Turkish newspaper, Justice Minister Cemil Cicek said that he might need more time to give it the go-ahead.

Orhan Pamuk
Orhan Pamuk is modern Turkey's best-known novelist
"It is not a simple matter of yes or no," Mr Cicek told the Aksam newspaper. "The prosecution file will be studied in its entirety... once it comes."

The charges relate to a magazine interview earlier this year in which Orhan Pamuk said: "One million Armenians and 30,000 Kurds were killed in these lands and nobody but me dares talk about it."

Turkey maintains the deaths of Armenians in conflicts accompanying the collapse of the Ottoman empire in the early 20th Century were not part of a genocidal campaign, arguing that many ethnic Turks were also killed in that period.

Turkey also denies its efforts to contain a separatist uprising in its Kurdish community in the 1980s and 1990s can be classed as genocide.

Wider struggle

By putting Mr Pamuk on trial over the interview made in February, Turkey has put itself in a very uncomfortable spotlight, BBC correspondent Sarah Rainsford says.

The novelist is being tried under an article of law that makes it illegal to insult the republic, parliament or any organs of state.

The charge carries a possible prison sentence of up to three years.

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

Our correspondent says many in Turkey see his trial as part of a wider struggle between conflicting forces in the country - those who want to open up and join Europe and those opposed to the EU.


SEE ALSO:
Armenia remembers 1915 killings
24 Apr 05 |  Europe
Sense of the City: Istanbul
07 Aug 03 |  Europe


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