Turkish novelist Pamuk goes to trial

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Turkey's prime minister accused the European Union on Saturday of trying to pressure Turkish courts in the trial of the country's best-known novelist.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his Cabinet will discuss Monday whether a court should press ahead with the trial of Orhan Pamuk, a case that has raised questions about Turkey's commitment to free speech.

On Friday, the first day of the trial, a judge halted the proceeding and insisted the Justice Ministry first approve going ahead with the trial of the acclaimed writer, who is accused of insulting the country's honor.

The move is forcing Turkey's politicians to grapple with whether they are willing to press forward with a high-profile trial despite criticism from the European Union, which Turkey is trying to join.

Turkey began membership talks with the EU on Oct. 3, and Dutch conservative Camiel Eurlings, head of a European Parliament delegation monitoring the trial, cautioned Friday that the impact of the case ``could be huge, and it could be negative.''

Erdogan told reporters Saturday: ``The EU at the moment is trying to put our judiciary under pressure ... Rightly or wrongly, the issue is in the courts.

``My views concerning freedom of expression are well known,'' he said. ``I am a person who was a victim of a freedom of expression case.''

Erdogan served four months in jail in 1999 for reciting what the courts deemed to be an inflammatory poem interpreted as being anti-secular. Turkey is a staunchly secular state.

Pamuk, author of ``Snow'' and ``My Name is Red'' and an often-mentioned candidate for the Nobel prize in literature, said in a brief statement to the press that ``it is not good for Turkey, for our democracy, for such freedom of expression cases to be prolonged.''

Denis MacShane, Britain's former minister for Europe and a member of the British Parliament, told The Associated Press on Friday that ``the accusation of insulting the state is something you associate with dictatorial regimes, not with a modern European state.''

``You can't put one of the world's best living novelists on trial and say this is just growing pains,'' added MacShane, who attended the hearings as an informal observer.

Pamuk is being tried for telling a Swiss newspaper in February that ``30,000 Kurds and 1 million Armenians were killed in these lands, and nobody but me dares to talk about it.''

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