Turkish prosecutors have launched an investigation into Nobel Prize-winning author Orhan Pamuk on allegations of insulting the founder of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, and the Turkish flag in his latest book, Turkish media reported on Monday.
The first investigation into Pamuk was based on a criminal complaint filed by lawyer Tarcan Ülük of the İzmir Bar Association at the İzmir Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office in which he argued that Pamuk had incited hatred and animosity among the public by insulting Atatürk in his book, “Veba Geceleri” (Nights of Plague).
Ülük suggested that Pamuk was equating main character Kolağası Kamil with Atatürk and that this was evidenced by the fact that the author wrote that “he eventually became the president” in the book.
Ülük further maintained that the book also ridiculed the Turkish flag, referring to it as “the funny flag featuring the emblem of a Greek pharmacy.”
The İzmir Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation and sent the file to its counterpart in İstanbul since the book’s publisher is based there.
The İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office took Pamuk’s testimony in which the Nobel laureate denied referring in his book to Atatürk by way of implication and noted that the Turkish flag has nothing to do with the emblem of a Greek pharmacy.
Examining the evidence and Pamuk’s testimony and noting that the book does not contain any direct insult of Atatürk and that Kolağası Kamil is popular with the public, the İstanbul prosecutor issued a decision of non-prosecution due to a lack of grounds.
However, Ülük objected to the prosecutor’s decision, and his objection was accepted by a penal court of peace, which triggered a new investigation.
Pamuk’s “Nights of Plague” is historical fiction set in 1901 during the a plague in İstanbul.
Pamuk won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006 and is considered one of the most influential novelists in Turkey.
Law 5816, titled “The Law Concerning Crimes Committed Against Atatürk,” in the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) protects “the memory of Atatürk” from insult by any Turkish citizen. An offense against the memory of Atatürk is punishable by up to three years in prison.
Freedom of speech is a contested issue in Turkey, where dozens of people are prosecuted every day for expressing their views about the government and their actions as well as issues deemed “taboo” in Turkey like Atatürk.