Turkish novelist faces jail for 'insulting national character'

Orhan Pamuk is scheduled to go on trial on 16 December and could face up to three years in prison for comments on Turkey's killing of Armenians and Kurds, his publisher, Tugrul Pasaoglu, said yesterday.

"Thirty thousand Kurds and one million Armenians were killed in these lands and nobody but me dares to talk about it," Pamuk said in an interview with a Swiss newspaper in February.

The "one million" refers to Armenians killed by Ottoman Turks at about the time of the First World War, which Armenians and several nations recognise as the first genocide of the 20th century. Turkey vehemently denies that genocide took place, saying the death toll is inflated and Armenians were killed in a civil war as the Ottoman Empire collapsed, eventually giving way to the Turkish Republic in 1923.

The "thirty thousand Kurds" mentioned by Pamuk refers to those killed since 1984 as Turkey fought a vicious war against armed Kurdish separatists.

Turkey, which has been trying to improve its human rights record as it vies for membership of the EU, is extremely sensitive about both the Armenian and Kurdish issues, and its new penal code makes it a crime to denigrate Turkey's national identity.

Pamuk's books, which include the internationally acclaimed Snow and My Name is Red, have been translated into more than 20 languages. His publisher said yesterday:"We have to wait for the court. Then he [Pamuk] will make his speech in the court."

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