Paris – Turkish writer Nedim Gursel is to go on trial in Ankara for insulting religious values in his latest novel, The Daughters of Allah, Gursel confirmed to the German Press Agency dpa on Friday.
“The authorities accuse me of insulting religious values and thereby being a danger to public security,” Gursel said in Paris, where he is research director of comparative literature at CNRS and professor of Turkish at the Oriental Language Institute.
The trial is to begin in Istanbul on May 5, but Gursel said he will likely not appear at it before May 26.
If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of two years in prison. Gursel said Article 216 of the new Turkish Penal Code (TPC) foresees a sentence of six months to one year for the crime, but double if it is committed in writing.
Gursel said that he did not understand the charges against him and his book.
“There is after all the freedom to criticize. I did not intend to insult our religion,” he said.
The Prophet Mohammed “is the central point of my work,” Gursel said. “But I always treat him with respect for believers.”
The English online edition of the Turkish daily Hurriyet reported this week that a committee of the government’s Religious Affairs Directorate had sharply criticized the novel.
In a report, it described The Daughters of Allah as “insulting and sarcastic, humiliating Allah, the prophets, divine religions, worshipping, holy books and religious principles,” and concluded that “this cannot be explained in the scope of freedom of thought or criticism.”
The 58-year-old Gursel is one of Turkey’s most prominent – and most controversial – writers.
His first volume of short stories, A Summer Without End, received Turkey’s highest literary prize in 1976. However, in 1981, after the military took power in Ankara, the book was judged to have slandered the Turkish army.
Two years later, his novel The First Woman was charged with offending public morals and was also censored by the military. Although charges against Gursel were dropped, both books were withdrawn from public circulation.
In 1986, Gursel received the Liberty Prize of the French PEN club of writers. His books have been translated into more than 10 languages. He is a founding member of the International Parliament of Writers. (dpa)