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Charges of insulting Erdogan meant to quell dissent: Nobel laureate

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Turkish writer, columnist and academic Murat Belge (R) and Nobel Prize-winning author Orhan Pamuk leave Kartal Justice Palace after Belge appeared in court on charges of insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul, Turkey, May 3, 2016. ©Reuters

A Nobel Prize-winning Turkish author has accused Ankara of bringing charges of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan against people in an attempt to suppress dissent and frighten opponents.

Orhan Pamuk made the remarks in Istanbul on Tuesday after he attended the trial of Turkish writer, columnist and academic Murat Belge.

Pamuk expressed dismay over the increasing number of insult cases, saying, “This has nothing to do with insulting the president. This is only about silencing political opposition. This is about intimidating people and scaring the country so nobody would criticize the government.”

"I have been writing for 40 years. I am fed up with appearing at the gates of courts, defending my friends and my own cases," Pamuk said.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Pamuk called on authorities in European states to pay more attention to Turkey's record on freedom of expression as it is cooperating with Ankara over the refugee crisis.

The European Union struck a deal with Turkey in March, promising money, accelerated EU accession negotiations and visa-free travel to Europe in return for help stemming the flow of refugees to the continent.

"I hope the leaders of the EU when they are shaking hands with Turkish leaders ... would also occasionally talk about free speech," he said.

Pamuk, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006, was tried 10 years ago on charges of “insulting Turkishness” for comments about the mass killings of Kurds and Armenians. The charges, however, were later dropped.

Belge faces up to four years in jail on charges of insulting Erdogan in a column published in the opposition Taraf daily last September. In his hearing, the writer dismissed the charges and his case was adjourned to September 20.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visits the headquarters of the Special Forces in Ankara, Turkey, May 3, 2016. ©Reuters

The Turkish government has been under fire for allegedly clamping down on journalists and sentencing them to long prison terms.

Nearly 2,000 people, including ordinary citizens, students, cartoonists and journalists, have been prosecuted for insulting Erdogan since he was elected to the presidency in August 2014.

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