Free speech row clouds Turkey's EU hopes

The Turkish government, already under pressure to recognise EU member Cyprus, is pushing for a date to begin full membership talks and can ill afford a new row over freedom of speech.

Orhan Pamuk, the internationally acclaimed author of My Name is Red, could face up to three years in prison for comments made in a Swiss interview when he condemned the mass killing of Armenians in the aftermath of the First World War.

Denis MacShane, former Europe minister and Labour MP for Rotherham, said: "It is a sickening blow to all pro-Turks in Britain and Europe ... to hear the news that the Turkish authorities seek to persecute this great European writer."

Calling on the European Commission to lobby Turkey to drop the charges, Mr MacShane added: "I will continue to support and argue for (Turkey's) right to start EU membership talks. But if the authorities persist with this attack on a great European writer then many of us who are strong supporters of Turkey will be forced to change our minds."

A Turkish public prosecutor said Mr Pamuk's comments violated Turkey's penal code. The award-winning writer is charged with "denigrating Turkish identity". Mr Pamuk is prohibited from commenting on the charges but his associate and translator Maureen Freely launched a scathing attack over the charge. "How can Turkey possibly claim to be a European country if it has such laws on the books and prosecutors can bring such cases?" she asked.

The row threatens to overshadow the meeting of EU foreign ministers intended to assess the country's compliance with conditions to open membership talks next month.

In recent years, Turkey has had to enact major political and economical reforms to overcome its reputation as a country that violates human rights and has a weak, uncompetitive economy.

Abdullah Gul, the Turkish Foreign Minister, said talks should begin on schedule as Turkey had met all of the objective criteria.

However, preparations for the talks have already hit a major obstacle over Cyprus. In July, Turkey signed a deal extending a customs union with the EU to include Cyprus and nine other countries that joined the bloc in 2004. Turkey upset many EU governments by insisting its signature on the customs deal did not mean Ankara now recognised the Cypriot government.

Critics have seized on Cyprus to call for a watered-down associate member status for Turkey.

Mr Pamuk caused a storm last year when he told the Swiss newspaper Der Tagesanzeiger that "30,000 Kurds and one million Armenians were killed in these lands and nobody but me dares to talk about it."

Turkey denies a genocide of Armenians between 1915 and 1923, claiming instead that hundred of thousands of Armenians died of famine and disease only.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions