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Last Updated: Monday, 23 January 2006, 11:42 GMT
Court drops Turkish writer's case
Orhan Pamuk
Orhan Pamuk is modern Turkey's best-known novelist
A Turkish court has dropped a case against the country's internationally renowned writer Orhan Pamuk, who faced charges of "insulting Turkishness".

The move came after the justice ministry refused to issue a ruling as to whether the charges should stand.

The case drew criticism from the EU, which Turkey eventually hopes to join.

Mr Pamuk was said to be delighted that charges had been dropped. They related to his remarks on Turkish 20th Century killings of Kurds and Armenians.

Brussels had described the case as a litmus test of Turkey's EU membership credentials.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said the court's decision to drop charges was "good news for freedom of expression in Turkey".

But he warned that Ankara must tackle loopholes in the law that threatened to restrict freedom of speech.

The trial had been adjourned until 7 February after it was halted on 16 December.

Others accused

Mr Pamuk's translator and friend, Maureen Freely, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the author was overjoyed that the case had been dropped.

But she said other similar trials were still due to take place in Turkey.

Orhan leaves court (centre) in Istanbul
The trial has generated intense interest in Turkey and beyond

"In two weeks' time there are going to be eight new trials opening, and our concern is that because Orhan is no longer part of this group, that there will be less international pressure," she said.

"In fact, there should be more international pressure, because there's a real chance that we can convince the government that it should drop these laws altogether and turn Turkey into a democracy along European lines."

The case stems from a magazine interview last 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.

High profile

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 was accused under Article 301, which makes it illegal to insult the republic, parliament or any organs of state - and can lead to a sentence of up to three years in jail.

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

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

See Orhan Pamuk at court

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