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Free Speech On Trial In Turkey

Renowned Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk is on trial for an interview he gave in February to the Swiss magazine Das Magazin. The magazine quoted him as saying, "Thirty thousand Kurds and a million Armenians were killed in these lands and nobody but me dares to talk about it."

Mr. Pamuk was referring to Kurds killed as a result of Turkish security operations targeting terrorist groups such as the P-K-K [Kurdistan Workers’ Party], and to what President Bush has referred to as the terrible tragedy that befell the Armenian community in Anatolia during the last years of the Ottoman Empire. Mr. Pamuk has been charged under Turkey's criminal code for insulting the Turkish identity.

Mr. Pamuk is not the only person in Turkey facing such prosecution. Editor Abdullah Yildiz has been ordered to appear in court for publishing "The Witches of Smyrna," a novel by Greek author Mara Meimaridi. According to press reports, the novel is set during the last years of Ottoman rule in the city of Izmir – known in Greek as "Smyrna" - and in some passages describes the city's Turkish quarters as dirty.

Sara Whyatt is with the International PEN group, which campaigns for writers' freedom of expression worldwide. She told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that most writers and journalists "are accused for. . . .comments which have criticized the government or suggested human rights abuses by the army." The prosecution of novelist Orhan Pamuk, she said, is "an absolutely clear-cut violation of Article Nineteen of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which protects the right to freedom of expression."

The United States values its long friendship with Turkey, and President George W. Bush has called Turkey’s democracy "an important example for the people of the broader Middle East." But as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said, "The free flow of ideas is the lifeline of liberty." Freedom of expression is a key element of democracy. The United States supports the right of people everywhere – including Turkey - to express themselves freely.

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.