Sunday, January 22, 2006

Turkey Back From the Brink

A Turkish court dropped charges yesterday against Orhan Pamuk after being told by the justice ministry that it had no authority to try the novelist for "insulting Turkishness" under controversial Article 301 of the criminal code.

This marks a step back from the precipice for Turkey, a nation that figured to lose its tenuous hold on a possible accession to the European Union if it went ahead with the case against one of the world's best-know international writers (although the bird flu can't be helping on the EU front).

Pamuk had faced a possible three-year prison sentence for speaking openly about the Armenian genocide and Turkey's war with Kurdish guerrillas—both taboo subjects in Turkey today. This decision by the justice ministry saves Turkey from an inevitable embarrassment on the world stage, but it marks only the first step in a process of getting draconian laws such as Article 301—which prohibits publicly insulting Turkish National identity, the republic, or the Grand National Assembly—off the books entirely. While dropping the case is the right decision, it's a far cry from the Turkish government repudiating the mentality that underlies it.

This is a victory for freedom and liberty to be sure, but only just.
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