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Nedim Gursel: Turkish Author Tried For Insulting Islam

IBRAHIM USTA   05/26/09 10:39 AM ET   AP

Turkey Auth On

ISTANBUL — A Turkish author on trial over accusations that his latest book insulted Islam denied the charges Tuesday and insisted he was respectful of religion.

Nedim Gursel faces up to a year in prison if found guilty on charges of humiliating religious values and inciting religious hatred in his novel "The Daughters of Allah."

Gursel, who was born in Turkey but has French citizenship and is based in France, is the latest intellectual to be prosecuted in Turkey under laws that restrict free speech.

A case against him began last year after a citizen complained that the novel _ set in the 6th century and describing the advent of Islam _ was blasphemous. Gursel has repeatedly said his book, published in Turkey last year, is fictitious and that he did not intend to offend.

Gursel is accused of mocking religious figures in his novel.

Prosecutors investigating the case initially ruled there were no grounds to put Gursel on trial, but that decision was overturned by a court, forcing authorities to press charges.

"I am respectful of faiths," Gursel said following a court hearing Tuesday, where his trial was adjourned until June 25. "For an author to be prosecuted for a novel does not suit the Turkish Republic."

At a hearing earlier this month, prosecutors said there was no evidence the book incited hatred, raising hopes that Gursel will be acquitted. It is not unusual in the Turkish justice system for prosecutors to press for a defendant's acquittal.

In 2006, charges against Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk for insulting Turkey were dropped on a technicality. Turkey has since amended some laws in an attempt to promote free speech, and insists that few intellectuals have ended up in prison.

But human rights groups and the European Union, which Turkey hopes to join, say the laws are used to harass dissident intellectuals and insist they be scrapped.

The book is scheduled to be published in France later this year.

(This version CORRECTS author faces maximum one year in prison)

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Filed by Stuart Whatley  |