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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 December 2005, 16:42 GMT
Partial reprieve for Turk writer
Orhan Pamuk
Orhan Pamuk's case has drawn international criticism
Turkish state prosecutors have dropped one of two criminal charges against the best-selling writer Orhan Pamuk.

The charge that he had insulted Turkey's armed forces was dropped, but he still faces the charge that he insulted "Turkishness", lawyers said.

His trial was halted on its first day, when an Istanbul judge said the case needed the justice ministry's approval.

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

It has called on Ankara, which has just started negotiations over EU membership, to do more to protect freedom of expression.

Legal wrangling

The trial was halted on 16 December and adjourned until 7 February.

The justice 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.

The case stems from a magazine interview earlier this year in which Mr 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.

Mr Pamuk is being tried under 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.

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

The same nationalist lawyers behind Mr Pamuk's indictment have succeeded in opening an investigation into comments made by a Euro MP, who was part of an EU delegation attending the writer's hearing.

Joost Lagendijk, who chairs the EU parliament committee on Turkey, is accused of insulting Turkey's armed forces after allegedly saying troops were provoking clashes with Kurdish separatists.

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