An Istanbul court looked more like a media scrum on Friday as the trial began of one of Turkey’s best-selling novelists, Orhan Pamuk.
The trial is attracting great attention as it is seen as a key test of the country’s commitment to western-style reforms as it bids to shape a society compatible with EU membership. The European Union itself is following events closely. European Green party parliamentarian Daniel Cohn Bendit says Turkey’s membership talks should be stopped if the court finds against Pamuk. In the press Pamuk has talked of his “embarrassment” at what he calls his “over dramatised” case, but writers and human rights activists who have suffered censorship are supporting him, and he may need it. He faces a possible three years in jail for the alleged crime of “insulting Turkish identity”, but the case was immediately adjourned until February. Abroad Pamuk collects awards and is talked of as a future Nobel literature prize winner; but his comments in a Swiss paper of massacres of Armenians and Kurds in Turkish history have broken taboos at home.