The European Union enlargement chief met with Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk at his home in Istanbul, where the two discussed freedom of expression ahead of Pamuk's December trial for allegedly insulting the Turkish identity.
A Turkish prosecutor used a clause in the Turkish penal code to open a case against Pamuk, one of Turkey's most successful writers, for remarks he made about the deaths of Kurds and Armenians in Turkey. The clause has also been used in recent days to convict an Armenian-Turkish journalist, raising concerns about Turkey's tolerance of free expression.
The EU has said it will be watching closely when Pamuk goes before a judge on Dec. 16. EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn, on the third day of a visit to Turkey following the opening of the country's EU membership talks on Tuesday, met with Pamuk for around an hour and a half on Saturday, NTV television reported.
Pamuk said he and Rehn did not discuss the case directly, but talked about "human rights in Turkey in general," the Anatolia news agency reported. The 301st paragraph of the new Turkish penal code says "a person who insults Turkishness, the Republic or the Turkish parliament will be punished with imprisonment ranging from six months to three years."
Some prosecutors have liberally interpreted the code and used it to try those who question Turkey's treatment of minorities, particularly Armenians and Kurds. On Friday, Turkey convicted Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink under the same clause for an article he wrote earlier this year in which he mentioned poison and Turkish blood in the same sentence. The court said the article was "intended to be insulting and offensive," while Dink said his words were taken out of context.
Dink, who has lived in Turkey all his life, received a six-month suspended sentence. He said the conviction was an attempt to silence him and held back tears as he said on Turkish television that he would leave Turkey if he could not get his conviction overturned. A case was opened against Pamuk after he told a Swiss newspaper in February, "30,000 Kurds and 1 million Armenians were killed in these lands and nobody but me dares to talk about it."
He was referring to those killed during Turkey's two-decade conflict with Kurdish rebels and to Armenians killed by Ottoman Turks around the time of World War I. Armenians and several country's recognize those killings as the first genocide of the 20th century, which Turkey denies.
Rehn also brought a stack of Pamuk's books for the author to sign, and the two later went out for lunch together at an Istanbul restaurant, Anatolia said. Pamuk's books, which include the internationally acclaimed "Snow" and "My Name is Red," have been translated into more than 20 languages. Pamuk has received numerous international awards, AP reports.