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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 June 2006, 09:48 GMT 10:48 UK
Turkish writer in call-up trial
Perihan Magden arrives at court in Istanbul
Magden is well known in Turkey
The trial of Turkish writer Perihan Magden, who is accused of trying to turn Turks against compulsory military service, has begun in Istanbul.

Charges were filed against her after she argued that conscientious objection - for which there is no provision under Turkish law - was a human right.

She is the latest writer to be tried for her views on sensitive issues.

Shortly after opening, her case was adjourned to 27 July to allow prosecutors to collect more evidence.

At Wednesday's hearing, Ms Magden said she could not believe she was in court, and that she actually had to defend herself for what she had written.

She said she had only defended conscientious objection as a human right and a right that is recognised by the UN and other countries.

She said she was paid to express her opinions as a columnist and she believed that was what she did and that was her constitutional right.

Her lawyer presented a similar case and said the judge would have to decide whether or not conscientious objection was a human right or a means of turning people against military service.

All men in Turkey are conscripted for up to 15 months.

EU criticism

Perihan Magden is well known and her often controversial columns have led to countless court cases.

The charges against her stem from a magazine article in which she argued that conscientious objection was a human right and defended a man in prison for defying the draft.

But this time, the complaints against her were filed by Turkey's powerful military.

If found guilty, she could face up to three years in jail.

Several dozen writers are still on trial in Turkey for what EU officials call their non-violent expression of opinion.

Ms Magden's trial comes just days before the EU is expected to issue sharp criticism of Turkey for its poor record on free speech amongst other things and the limits on civilian control over the military, our correspondent says.

Earlier this year, a Turkish court dropped a case against the internationally renowned writer Orhan Pamuk, who faced charges of "insulting Turkishness".


What effect will trials like this one have on Turkey's prospects of joining the EU? Send us your comments using the form below:

As with other prosecutions launched by Turkish prosecutors in the past against journalists and writers expressing their opinion, this will also end up not going ahead. However, this is yet another example of how the current Government is failing to push forward the country's EU-drive, the premise it was elected on. Turkey's EU-drive is clearly emerging as the main casualty of the open warfare that is raging between defenders of the secular foundations of the Turkish Republic and a Government that is bent on destroying them. Given the threat it faces to its security and social fabric that it faces from fundamentalist Islam, it is incomprehensible why the EU is not clearly signalling that it will always stand on the side of secularism in this conflict - that would persuade the secular establishment in Turkey not to torpedo the EU negotiation process through silly court cases such as this.Bozkurt Aydinoglu, UK

Everyone is born with basic human rights; rights to life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, right to think and express what one feels whether it is called conscientious expostulation or conscientious acquiescence. Unfortunately, basic human rights are not totally recognised in Turkey due to its irrationally paternalistic and dogmatic culture. This is the way they are and it is not going to chance easily or quickly whether they join the EU or not. The military has been using patriotic propaganda in order gain favour in the public's eyes and continue to force young men to serve even when they do not want to. To this day, one can not even criticise the military in Turkey and they claim to be a democratic and a free country. The military does not understand that if you do not believe in their principles, as a human being, you just can not serve, will not serve and should not serve. Middat Yildiz, New York

It is true that compulsory military service is a problem for some in Turkey. People, with whatever reason they have for not wanting to carry a weapon, may face jail or fines. However, it should also be understood that Turkey differs from all other European countries, in that it has borders no numerous rival, or relatively hostile nations. Turkey's does not share the same neighbours as Belgium. Syria, Iran, Iraq, Armenia, to name a few. Being in a dangerous part of the world Turkey must remind Europeans that the powerful and secular Turkish army is not just protecting Turkey, but is protecting Europe's borders as well. Diren, Istanbul, Turkey

It should not affect Turkey's bid for membership. Turkey has unique problems, problems different from those in much of Europe, that historically have required a special role for the military. To demand that Turkey change that role or to undermine that special role might open Turkey to the same kind of problems that exist in the rest of the Muslim World and change the dynamic of the entire region. Europe is made up of states with different electoral traditions, different degrees of government involvement in the daily lives of citizens, etc. Turkey should be seen as another one of those options - not made to conform to whatever pattern feels right from a France or a Germany. Roger Froikin, Cincinnati, USA

Turkey is a wonderful country with a vibrant mixed culture, secular/religious & European/Middle-East. It should be a very important member of the EU and major influence for the rest of us. However, if I was asked to decide if they should be admitted then I would have to reluctantly say a resounding "no". Artistic and journalistic freedom is a prime test for a democracy, one that Turkey unfortunately fails again and again. Chas Hopkins, UK

Whilst disgusted at this trial, you might well have pointed out that yesterday Armenian writer Hrant Dink's case was all but dropped (in his insult of Turkishness). Unlike in other countries, the military is the institution most trusted by the people in Turkey and as we have to contend with all the instability in our borders to the Southeast besides being made into an 'Islamic example' by the EU (something we don't want), this issue is considerably more sensitive here than anywhere else. Like other cases, charges are likely to be dropped, but I don't want to join the EU until it can understand our sensitivities more fully.Yurtsever, Ankara, Turkey

Certainly, these trials will have adverse effects. It's exhausting, after so many reforms to the penal system, Turkey gets back to square one each time. I am sure Ms Magden will not be penalised in the end, but why all the drama? Ipek Ruacan, Ankara, Turkey

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