Turkish publisher charged with insult of state for translating U.S. author's book

A Turkish publisher said Tuesday he has been charged with insulting the Turkish state and the founder of the Turkish Republic for translating a book by an American author. Fatih Tas, owner of the pro-Kurdish Aram publishing house, published "Spoils of War: The Human Cost of America's Arms Trade" by John Tirman, executive director of the center for international studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, earlier this year.

Prosecutors have charged Tas under two items in the penal code, one that makes it a crime to insult the Turkish identity or the Turkish government, and another making it a crime to insult Ataturk, the revered founder of the Turkish Republic.

Tas, 26, said he could face six years in prison if convicted.

Tirman, the author of the book, called the prosecution "the act of an immature and self-promoting prosecutor" and said it raised questions about Turkey's commitment to fulfilling European democratic norms as it seeks EU membership.

"For Turkey to be part of the West, to have a claim to be part of Europe and in particular the European Union, it needs to be able to tolerate these kinds of debates _ about the Kurds, about the implications of nationalism and so on," Tirman said.

"Spoils of War" deals with the human costs of the U.S. military relationship with Turkey, and is highly critical of Turkish nationalism and Turkey's treatment of its Kurdish minority, especially during a 15-year Kurdish rebel insurgency in southeast Turkey that began in the early 1980s.

Tirman said the issues raised in the book were "well within the bounds of political debate in the West" and that controversies on issues such as nationalism and ethnicity are "things that we must deal with in a democracy all the time."

European officials and human rights groups have been highly critical of Turkey's performance on freedom of expression, and especially of prosecutions under clauses in the penal code on insults against the state and Turkish identity.

Acclaimed Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk and the Armenian-Turkish editor Hrant Dink face similar charges, the AP reports.

Tas said he has some 25 cases opened against him and faces fines approaching US$20,000. He was earlier prosecuted for publishing a book by linguist and political activist Noam Chomsky, but the charges were dropped at the trial in Turkey, which Chomsky attended.

Tas is to appear in an Istanbul court Nov. 17.

The Aram Web site has been converted to a petition campaign calling for Turkey to abolish the articles in the penal code under which Tas was charged. The petition has more than 250 signatures, including those of Chomsky and other activists and professors from the United States.


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