15 November 2005 - TURKISH PREMIER DISTANCES HIMSELF FROM ACTION AGAINST TURKISH WRITER [PRESS COMMUNIQUE]
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan today (Tuesday) distanced himself from the highly controversial upcoming trial of the Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk for the “public denigration of Turkish identity”.
In his clearest statement on the issue to date, Prime Minister Erdogan told NATO lawmakers that it was his "clear hope that the judicial decision will be in line with freedom of expression and freedom of thought."
Mr Erdogan was answering questions following an address to members of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly which was holding its annual session in the Danish capital, Copenhagen.
British MP Denis MacShane, who has been active in the campaign to drop charges against Mr Pamuk, welcomed the Turkish Prime Minister's remarks.
"Orhan Pamuk is the best known Turk other than the Prime Minister himself and his case had become "a symbol of Turkey's commitment to core democratic and western values". He said it was important to stop next month's trial before it does harm to Turkey's bid to join the European Union and reform process underway in the country.
Mr Pamuk has been charged by an Istanbul public prosecutor after the furore caused by remarks he made in an interview with a Swiss newspaper about his country's alleged mass killing of Armenians. Mr Pamuk was forced to flee abroad after receiving a series of death threats following the interview. He returned home recently and was charged.
A trial date has now been set for December 16; if convicted, the novelist faces up to three years in prison.
Prime Minister Erdogan also said that all Turkish archives on the First World War would be made available to academic researchers and he called upon Armenia and other countries to open their archives so as to enable the truth of the events of 1915, when Turkish soldiers are accused of carrying out massacres of defenceless Armenians, to emerge.
Mr MacShane is due to speak on the issue in Britain's House of Commons late on Tuesday.