Turkey should drop defamation charges against Nobel Laureate Pamuk – PEN

PEN International urged the Turkish authorities to drop defamation charges against Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk, who is under investigation for comments he made in his latest novel, ‘Nights of Plague’.

“Orhan Pamuk is Turkey’s national treasure, a literary asset whose words reverberates across the globe and should be celebrated as such, yet he finds himself once again targeted for his writings,” Burhan Sönmez, the president PEN International, said on Tuesday.

A penal court in Turkey has begun an investigation against Nobel laureate and PEN International vice president Pamuk for ridiculing the Turkish flag and insulting Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey, in the novel, which was released in March this year, news website Bianet reported on Monday.

In April, the Istanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office started the probe against Pamuk after Tarcan Tülük, a lawyer from the Izmir province, filed a criminal complaint saying Pamuk had incited hatred and animosity among the public through comments made in the novel. The author denied charges of insult in a statement to prosecutors.

Tülük’s request was rejected by the Istanbul office but he filed an appeal against the decision at a penal court, which accepted it. A second investigation has begun against the Nobel laureate on the same charges, Bianet said.

Pamuk was accused of ‘insulting Turkishness’ in 2005 after he told a Swiss newspaper that “30,000 Kurds and a million Armenians were killed” in Turkey and “nobody but me dares to talk about it.” He won the 2006 Nobel prize for literature. He is the first Turk to win the coveted prize. 

The insult of Atatürk, which carries a jail sentence of up to three years, was allegedly made through one of the book’s characters, Kolağası Kamil, who is described as a ranked military officer “having a thin moustache that he combs upward”.

Kamil is described by Pamuk as “eventually becoming a commander while waving a funny flag that bore the emblem of a Rum (Greek) chemist’’. The character then became president. 

The Nights of Plague tells the story of a group of people battling the plague on an imaginary Ottoman island a century ago.

Atatürk’s memory has been protected by Turkish law 5816 ("The Law Concerning Crimes Committed Against Atatürk"), since 1951.


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