A Turkish publisher said that he and a translator had been indicted after a prosecutor judged three erotic books, including one by renowned French poet Guillaume Apollinaire, to be obscene.
The books in question were Apollinaire's The
Exploits of a Young Don Juan, Turkish writer Ben Mila's The Fairy's Pendulum and a collection of writings by various authors published in Turkish as Letters from an Informed and Experienced Bourgeoise Woman , Irfan Sanci, owner of Sel
The courtcase was launched under a penal code article that criminalises the dissemination of obscene material deemed of no literary value but which excludes scientific and literary works from its scope, Sanci said.
The courtcase came after so-called experts contacted by the prosecutor said these three books were not literary works,
Sanci told AFP.
A fourth book by Spanish writer Juan Manuel de Prada escaped prosecution as the same experts decided it was a literary work, he added.
The publisher condemned the case as a violation of freedom of expression and said it
cast a shadow on the Muslim majority but secular country that is seeking European Union membership.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) convicted Turkey of a violation of freedom of expression in the context of the book The Eleven Thousand Rods (Les onze mille verges) by French writer Guillaume Apollinaire published in 1907. The book
was censored in Turkey and its publisher, Hades Publishing owner Rahmi Akdas,, was convicted by a Turkish court.
The decision was announced by the ECHR on 16 February. The court declared that there nothing to say against the protection of moral
values. Nevertheless, Acknowledgment of the cultural, historical and religious particularities of the Council of Europe's member States could not go so far as to prevent public access in a particular language, in this instance Turkish, to a work
belonging to the European literary heritage .
Publisher Akdas was sentenced to a monetary fine of 684 Turkish Lira (TL) on the grounds of obscenity and harming inner feelings of the people by publishing the work which contains
graphic descriptions of scenes of sexual intercourse, even though it is a fictional work. On 11 March 2004, the Court of Appeals approved the decision and decreed for the seizure and destruction of all copies of the book.
The Geneva-based International Publishing Association (IPA) will award its freedom prize to Irfan Sanci on Nov. 2.
Before he receives the award, however, Sanci must appear in an Istanbul court on allegations that one of the books he has
published has inappropriate sexual content.
Irfan Sanci, the owner of Sel Publishing House, is on trial for publishing a book with sexual content by French writer Guilliame Apollinare.
There is nothing to say about what's going on. I am
being punished in my own country but am also getting an international award. This is tragic, Sanci, the owner of Sel Publishing House, told the Hrriyet Daily News.
Everything aside, Apollinare's book, which is a part of the world's
cultural heritage, is being tried for hurting the public's sense of shame, he said.
In May 2010, despite expert reports from the Galatasaray and Bahçesehir Universities concluding that the books were works of literature, an Istanbul court
decided to send the three books to the Prime Ministerial Board for the Protection of Children from Harmful Publications for review to determine whether they constitute literature or obscenity, IPA Freedom to Publish Committee Chair Bjorn Simonsen
told the Daily News. The news hearing is due on Nov. 2. This is potential political censorship. We therefore call for Sel's acquittal.
Sanci published Perinin Sarkaci (The Fairy's Pendulum) by a young female academic writing under
the pen name Ben Mila, as well as Apollinaire's A dventures of the Young Don Juan , P.V.'s Letters of a Learned and Well-mannered French Bourgeois Lady and Spanish writer Juan Manuel de Prada's The Pussy.
books, however, were sued in accordance with the law for protecting minors from harmful publications.
Reporters Without Borders is deeply shocked by the seizure and destruction of all known copies of the last unpublished draft copy of a book by Ahmet Sik. This work, which explores the relationship between the police and the influential Islamic Gu len Movement,
is said to contain revelations about the Ergenekon antiterrorist trial, which has tainted Turkish political life for years.
Not content with preventing its publication and throwing the author into jail, the Turkish judicial
authorities searched the three locations where it was thought the draft copy might be found and ordered anyone who might still be in possession of it to hand it over to the authorities or face criminal charges.
Sik's lawyer had said the
journalist planned to name the book The Army of the Imam , after influential Islamic preacher, Fethullah Gulen, who is believed to have millions of followers in Turkey.
Sik was jailed earlier this month along with six other journalists,
accused of links to an alleged hardline secularist plot to topple Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government in 2003.
The European Union is expected to convey a series of warnings to Turkey during the next meeting of the EU-Turkey Association Council, which will be held in Brussels on April 19.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is scheduled to
attend the meeting of the council, which is reportedly getting ready to draw attention to a host of issues, ranging from press freedom to energy security, mentioned in a draft document of the EU Common Implementation Strategy.
On the issue of
press freedom, the EU report maintained a critical stance, calling on Turkey to enact further legislation in order to better harmonize its laws with the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights, while expressing concern over the recent arrests
of journalists, bans on certain Internet sites and the seizure of a draft manuscript.
A Turkish publisher is currently facing obscenity charges for releasing an edition of William Borroughs' novel, The Soft Machine . The book features scenes of drug addiction and homosexuality.
A winner of the International Publishers
Association's Freedom to Publish prize, Irfan Sanci has previously been sued under Article 226 of the Turkish penal code, for publishing books including Guillaume Apollinaire's Adventures of the Young Don Juan, but was acquitted in December.
He and his translator are now facing further obscenity charges for publishing 2,500 copies of a Turkish edition of the Burroughs novel in January, which could mean a jail sentence of up to nine years.
The International Publishers Association
called the situation mind-blowing and disappointing and called for Sanci and his translator's immediate acquittal, saying that the obscenity charges violate Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European convention on human rights. Last year
Turkey was found guilty of violating the article by the European court of human rights when it banned Apollinaire's erotic novel The Eleven Thousand Rods.
The Soft Machine develops attitudes that were permissive to crime by
concentrating on the banal, vulgar and weak attributes of humanity , according to a report by the Turkish Prime Ministerial Board for the Protection of Children from Harmful Publications, quoted in Turkish paper Hurriyet. The Council also accused the
novel of incompliance with moral norms and hurting people's moral feelings .
IPA Freedom to Publish Committee chair Bjorn Smith-Simonsen called the prosecution undemocratic, anachronistic and unworthy of a modern and open society
... Sanci is being harassed for doing his publisher's job. At a time when freedom to publish conditions deteriorate again in Turkey, it is urgent to stop these practices and to leave Irfan Sanci alone.
For aficionados of the Beat writers, an obscenity trial in Turkey is a throwback to half a century ago, when Naked Lunch was banned in Boston.
The Turkish publisher and translator of
William S. Burroughs' The Soft Machine are facing prison terms of six months to three years for allegedly violating a Turkish law against the publication and writing of pornography. Their trial, which opened in Istanbul on July 6, is the first in
Turkey to target the work of a Beat Generation writer.
First published in 1961, The Soft Machine is a classic Burroughs drug-addled narrative, relating the time-travel journey of a secret agent battling with Mayan
priests using mind control to direct slaves to harvest maize. The work uses an anti-establishment broken literary form called the cut-up method. The book also details Burroughs' own struggle with drug addiction, which is presented as a form of
An official report from the Board for the Protection of Minors from Obscene Publications, a Turkish government body, found that The Soft Machine, translated as Yumus,ak Makine, was not compatible with
the morals of society and the people's honor, was injurious to sexuality and seen to be generally repugnant. Similar rhetoric was used in the United States decades ago to thwart the American publication of Burroughs' most famous work,
Naked Lunch, which was published in Paris in 1959, but did not make its debut on the other side of the Atlantic until 1962.
Under Turkey's Press Law, translators and publishers of books are considered as accountable as
a writer for the content of published materials. Members of university Turkish literature departments have been enlisted by authorities to read The Soft Machine in order to help Istanbul's Second Penal Court determine if Burroughs' work qualifies as
pornography or literature. The trial, expected to last a year, will reconvene on October 11.
Two books by American authors are currently on trial in Turkey on obscenity charges which could lead to imprisonment for their publishers and translators.
The publisher and translator of the Turkish translation of The Soft Machine by
William Burroughs are on trial with the latest hearing held on 11 October. The case was brought following an investigation by the Board for Protection of Minors from Obscene Publications. The Board pronounced the book as not compatible with the morals
of society and the people's honour , injurious to sexuality and generally repugnant .
In September 2011, another publisher and translator were told that they will be brought to trial, also on charges of obscenity under Article
266, this time for the Turkish translation of a contemporary work, Snuff , by American writer Chuck Palahniuk. The book had been brought before the Board for the Protection of Children from Obscene Publications in May 2011 which judged that there
were grounds for indictment. The publisher was also accused of releasing the book, without warning and with no precautions to ensure that children did not read it. If found guilty, the owner of the Ayrinti Publishing House, Hasan Basri Ciplak and the
book's translator, Funda Uncu, could be imprisoned for between six months and three years.
PEN Turkey has protested the decision to press charges against the publishers of the book, and nominated Snuff as the Centre's Book of the Month in
reaction to the accusation.
The book, published in 2008 to mixed reviews, is a satire on the American pornography industry. The Board has deemed the book as immoral. In her defence, translator Uncu pointed out that Palahniuk is a world-renowned
author and argued that rather than being pornography, the book is a critique of the commoditisation of women .
The Publishers Union of Turkey has protested against a request by a national education ministry commission in Izmir province to censor John Steinbeck's masterpiece Of mice and man. The union said in a statement:
We are finding it hard to understand that actually ministry officials formed a commission to investigate the book for moral standards and then propose censorship on it. This is another embarrassing example of the censure mentality in
Turkey. And hopefully it will be the last one.
Steinbeck's masterpiece is actually listed among the 100 basic readings by the education ministry. It is also one of the most read novels in Turkey at all times.
The union urged the education minister Omer Dincer to implement of laws to prevent such absurd commissions, saying that such censure practices violated the freedom of expression.
Sel Publishing House, handling the Turkish translation, reiterated the union's protes complaining that universally acclaimed masterpieces could just be prosecuted in Turkey for subjective moral reasons. Sel said in a statement:
The commission already identified the passage needing censorship on a page by page and publisher house to publisher house manner. The identified passages have been submitted to ministry's support service unit.
Irvine Welsh has told of his delight after a ban on the sale of his book Porno in Turkey was overturned.
The follow-up to his best-selling hit Trainspotting was banned a decade ago because of its supposedly obscene content.
Turkish company Studio Image Publishers was taken to court along with the book's translator in 2002 and charged under obscenity laws with publishing pornographic material . They were found guilty and fined more than
£ 1 million, but appealed against the verdict.
However, the ban has now been lifted following a lengthy legal battle and the book is back on the shelves.
Turkey's Supreme Court of Appeals has overturned a previous ruling of acquittals of supposed obscenity regarding Guillaume Apollinaire's The Exploits of Young Don Juan .
Ruling that the previous ruling was unlawful ,
Supreme Court of Appeals said the book could not be considered within the freedom of expression.
Irfan Sanci, owner of Sel Publishing House, told bianet:
It is impossible to agree with Supreme Court of Appeals
verdict. On the other hand, Guillaume Apollinaire's written works have been recognized as world heritage by European Parliament. In a way, they are prosecuting the world heritage here.
We don't appreciate the fact that experts are
to determine whether a book is literary or not. This decision can only be made by readers, publishers and editors. You can't say a book is literary because the court said so. However, we applied to court for expert report after a report by Prime Ministry
Protecting Youngsters From Obscene Publications Council.
Previously, publishing house owner Irfan Sanci and translator Ismail Yerguz stood trial for translating and publishing supposedly obscene material. Istanbul 2nd Assize Court
acquitted the book, saying that it didn't include any crime elements. The case was sent to Supreme Court of Appeal. The chamber unanimously overthrew the previous ruling, ordering a new trial.
The Supreme Court censors explained their verdict:
The aforementioned book in trial included content with no story frame and solely simple expression to arouse sexual instincts. Through the narrative of children, it uses a language where anal, lesbian, unnatural and
bestial relations are depicted. Those expressions degrades society's general moral values, provoked and violated sexual desires, and disgusted readers with depictions of characters' excretion. The aforementioned book was not based on artistic point of
view. It is unacceptable that a French translation including pervert expression on family members, same sexes and animals could be considered as symbol of open-mindedness within the borders of expression freedom in a democratic society.
An Istanbul court has suspended the trial of a Turkish publisher and a translator accused of supposedly corrupting public morals over a French book written over a century ago.
The prosecution of the novel, The Exploits of a Young Don Juan, by French surrealist Guillaume Apollinaire is the latest in a series of trials restricting freedom of expression in Turkey.
The court suspended the case against publisher Irfan Sanci and translator Ismail Yerguz for three years, citing a technicality in the Turkish penal code.
But the ruling disappointed the defendants and their lawyers, who said they were
expecting a full acquittal. Sanci's lawyer Adem Sakal told AFP that the defendants are considering taking their case to the European Court of Human Rights. Sanci vowed that he would continue publishing the book, but said:
This decision is like the Sword of Damocles over my head.
In 2009, a local court in Istanbul filed a complaint over the obscene content in the book, which chronicles the sexual awakening of a 15-year-old
boy. The complaint was dismissed when a committee of academics concluded that the book should be considered a genuine work of literature, but in August, an appeals court overturned the decision, ruling that it lacked any artistic or literary value
Turkey has ruled that the million-selling book Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls will be age restricted and treated like pornography because it could have a detrimental influence on young people.
The book, which has been published in 47
languages, offers a series of inspiring stories about women from history for young children, from British nurse Florence Nightingale to French designer Coco Chanel to singer Beyonce.
But the Turkish government's censorship board for the protection
of minors from obscene publications claimed:
Some of the writings in the book will have a detrimental influence on the minds of those under the age of 18. That means it can only be sold to over-18s and must be
concealed from view in shops.
Speaking to AFP, one of the authors, Francesca Cavallo, said she was saddened by the decision. She sad:
Girls deserve to grow up surrounded by more female role models. They deserve to
grow up thinking that they can be anything they want
When a government is scared by a children's book promoting equality, that means that promoting these messages through children's literature can have and is having an impact, and it makes me even
more motivated to keep fighting every day.