Orhan Pamuk has been charged with insulting Turkish identity for supporting Armenian claims that they suffered a genocide under Ottoman Turks in 1915. He faces three years in jail if convicted.
Pamuk further upset the establishment and nationalists by saying Turkish forces shared responsibility for the deaths of more than 30,000 Kurds in southeast Turkey during separatist fighting there in the 1980s and 1990s.
Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul on Sunday sought to play down the controversy, telling Canal television that he expected the case to be dismissed because a court had thrown out similar charges against a different person.
“The same trial has been held before, over the same phrases, the same words,” Gul said.
“The judge ruled that everyone has the right to express their opinion. The same decision will be handed down, I have no doubt about this.”
Nationalists reject any attempt
Pamuk’s prosecution has highlighted concerns over whether Turkey’s human-rights record is compatible with EU membership. About 60% of French voters say they do not want mainly Muslim Turkey to join the EU.
In a show of support, EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn met Pamuk at the writer’s Istanbul home on Saturday and urged Ankara to respect freedom of expression.
Pamuk, best known for historical novels such as My Name is Red and The White Castle, goes on trial on 16 December.
Gul said that despite the case, human rights had advanced by leaps and bounds in the past three years.
“The same trial has been held before, over the same phrases, the same words”
“We have a limited democracy in Turkey … but thanks to the reforms of the past few years, its scope has widened enormously.”
Turkey had offered to open its archives to international historians to resolve the Armenian massacre issue, which has complicated Ankara’s bid to join the European Union.
The European Parliament last month passed a non-binding resolution saying Ankara must recognise the Armenian massacres as a genocide before joining the EU, and gave only grudging support to the start of entry talks with Turkey on 3 October.