Turkey's top author sentenced for article on Kurds

HUGH POPE

Istanbul

Like a wicked godmother cursing the new-born centre-right government that took power in Turkey yesterday, Istanbul's State Security Court handed down a 20-month jail sentence on Turkey's best-known writer, Yashar Kemal.

The three judges decided there was an incitement to racial hatred in his article "Black Clouds over Turkey", in which he condemned Turkish oppression of the Kurds. Mr Kemal's passionate article was published in a book called Freedom of Expression in Turkey, subsequently banned.

"I am being judged because I want the war to stop. I will fight until death for the end of this war [between the Turkish army and Kurdish guerrillas]," Mr Kemal said. "More than three and a half million people have been driven from their homes and are now searching rubbish dumps for their food."

The sentence against Mr Kemal and the fine on his co-defendant and publisher, Erdal Oz, who was ordered to pay the equivalent of pounds 38, were suspended as long as they did not repeat their "crime" within five years. Lawyers said both would appeal against the sentence but this was not the attitude taken by Mr Kemal, 72. As he left the courtroom, he shouted: "Jail me if you like. It is not you who sentence me. I condemn you."

The judges may have considered they were being lenient, deferring to Mr Kemal's international prestige, his 30 novels translated into many languages and sales of 5 million books in Turkey alone. He is Kurdish and writes in Turkish, seeing himself as a mix of the two.

Mesut Yilmaz, the new Prime Minister, who sought Mr Kemal's advice before the December election, told Milliyet newspaper his government would think about allowing Kurdish television and Kurdish education. Even the word Kurd was taboo less than a decade ago and a change in Turkish attitudes was shown by Mr Kemal's prosecutor yesterday, who acknowledged the Kurds "as a race but not as a nation". But when he said he believed the article was not criminal, that the book should be unbanned and Mr Kemal and Mr Oz acquitted, the judges would not relent.

The sentence is bound to stain the reputation of the new coalition government. Kurdish nationalists will also see little future hope in an unsurprising programme read out to parliament yesterday. Mr Yilmaz spoke in cliches of "separating the terrorists from the people". And the army is building its troop strength in the mainly Kurdish south-east for the traditional spring offensive.

The new Cabinet is packed with technocrats to run the economy but also includes former police chiefs associated with a mixed policy of military repression and economic promises. These helped depopulate the Kurdish rural south-east and restored order in towns but have failed to end the 11-year guerrilla insurgency.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
voices
News
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
News
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before