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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Turkish prosecutor probes whether atheist book "The God Delusion" assaults values

Another example of religion's propensity to stifle free thought and free speech.


The Associated Press
Published: November 28, 2007

ANKARA, Turkey: A prosecutor is investigating whether to prosecute the Turkish publisher of a best-selling book by atheist writer Richard Dawkins for inciting religious hatred, reports said Wednesday.

Publisher Erol Karaaslan said Wednesday he would be questioned by an Istanbul prosecutor as part of an official investigation into "The God Delusion" written by the British expert in evolutionary biology.

The investigation follows controversy about free speech in Turkey after Nobel Prize-winning author Orhan Pamuk went on trial in 2005 over comments about historic abuses in Turkey.

Karaaslan could go on trial if the prosecutor concludes the book incites religious hatred and insults religious values, and faces up to one year in prison if found guilty, Milliyet newspaper reported.

The prosecutor started the inquiry into the book after one reader complained that passages in the book were an assault on "sacred values," Karaaslan said.

Karaaslan said he will be questioned Thursday and faces prosecution both as the book's publisher and translator. The book has sold some 6,000 copies in Turkey since it was published by his Kuzey publishing house in June.

No one was available for comment at the prosecutor's office.

The European Union, which Turkey hopes to join, is pressing Ankara to change laws that curb free expression and do not fit within the bloc's standards of free speech.

Turkey has said it will soften a much-criticized law which makes denigrating Turkish identity, or insulting the country's institutions, a crime.

Pamuk went on trial over his comments about the mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in the early 20th century, but the charges were later dropped. Pamuk was later awarded the Nobel prize for literature in 2006.

Turkey contends the death toll has been inflated and the deaths were the result of civil unrest, not genocide.

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