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Trial of Turkish author Pamuk adjourned


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Istanbul (dpa) - The trial of world-renowned author Orhan Pamuk on charges of "insulting Turkishness" got under way on Friday but was almost immediately adjourned with the court calling for documents from the Justice Ministry that would allow the case to go ahead.

Pamuk did not make a statement during the short hearing at a courthouse in the Istanbul suburb of Sisli.

It was discovered earlier this week that permission for the trial to go ahead needed to be given by the Justice Ministry but that as of Friday no permission had been granted, nor even requested.

Judge Metin Aydin ordered that an appeal be made to the Justice Ministry for clarification on the matter. He adjourned the case until Feburary 7.

Pamuk, the author of books such as "Snow" and "My Name is Red", faces up to three years imprisonment for having allegedly "insulted Turkishness" for comments he made to the Swiss newspaper Tages Anzeiger on February 6, 2005 in which he was quoted as saying "30,000 Kurds and one million Armenians were killed in these lands and nobody but me dares to talk about it".

Turkey denies that a genocide ever took place during the First World War and claims that the numbers of Armenians who died were much lower than the 1.5 million figure often cited.

Ankara is also extremely sensitive of comments relating to the treatment of Kurds since the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) launched its fight for independence or autonomy in the early 1980s.

There were scenes of chaos outside the courtroom in the Istanbul suburb of Sisli as hundreds of local and foreign journalists jostled on the side of a busy road for interviews with Pamuk supporters, activists from human rights groups and European Union observers.

Despite the presence of riot police a small group of nationalist protesters pelted a minivan Pamuk used to leave the court with eggs while some attempted to smash the vehicles windows but it appeared that no damage was done.

The high profile case is seen as a key test for freedom of expression in Turkey and comes just months after Turkey started membership negotiations with the European Union.

"It is not Orhan Pamuk who will stand trial ... but Turkey," E.U. Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said in Brussels on Thursday.

"This is a litmus test of whether Turkey is seriously committed to freedom of expression and reforms that enhance the rule of law and benefit all Turkish citizens," he added.

Daniel Cohn-Bendit co-chairman the Greens/Free European Alliance in the European Parliament, told reporters before Friday's proceeding that the law under which Pamuk is being charged must be changed.

"Freedom of writing, freedom of speech is the core of democracy... this (case) is a demonstration of not understanding what democracy is about," Cohn-Bendit said.

Cohn-Bendit said that if the law is not repealed then Turkey's membership negotiations with the E.U. will be extremely difficult.

"(The law) undermines the way to democracy ... and the way to Europe is the way to democracy," he said.

The Turkish government has refused to interfere in the case, saying the matter is sub judice but during a trip to Australia last week Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused international human rights groups of attempting to pressure the Turkish judicial process.

Justice Minister Cemil Cicek said the decision to adjourn the case was correct but he refused to say whether his ministry would give permission for the trial to continue.

Asked about how the trial was damaging Turkey's reputation abroad, Cicek said that "it has come to this thanks to the media", the NTV private television station reported.

Copyright 2005 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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