ISTANBUL (Reuters)–US academic Noam Chomsky arrived in Istanbul on Tuesday–aiming to force a Turkish court to try him alongside a publisher who faces jail for printing his political essays in Turkish.
The latest high-profile test of Turkey’s sometimes draconian limits on freedom of expression comes as the country enacts reforms designed to bring it closer to European Union membership–and Istanbul hosts an international conference.
Fatih Tas of Aram Publishing faces up to a year in jail for publishing "American Interventionism," a collection of Chomsky’s writings in Turkish that prosecutors charge is "propaganda against the indivisible unity of the Turkish state."
In one section of the book the linguistic professor–more famous for his attacks on US foreign policy than his academic studies on how humans learn language–accuses Turkey of oppressing its Kurdish citizens.
"The essence of what I wrote–that Kurds are under oppression in Turkey and that the United States of America is part of this activity–was taken from documen’s of leading human rights organizations–respected and serious works and official documen’s of the US government," Chomsky said in a Turkish statement released through the publishing house.
"(The trial) is an extremely serious attack on the most basic human rights and civilized rights. I believe state officials will accept this and withdraw the charges without delay," he said.
Chomsky is due to attend a state security court hearing in Istanbul on Wednesday–and supporters said he would petition the court to add his name to the charge sheet.
"He will say ‘I am here–I wrote this book and if there is a crime I should be tried too’," said Elvan Og of a Turkish free speech group working with Chomsky.
"But we have no way of knowing whether the court will allow that," she said.
Adding the name of a world-famous academic to the charge sheet would be potentially embarrassing for Turkey–especially as it is hosting a meeting of scholars and politicians to discuss relations between Christianity and Islam.
Chomsky–a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and seen by many as the father of modern linguistics–is also due to visit Diyarbakir–capital of Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast region.
Most of the allegations of human rights abuses against Turkey stem from fighting between security forces and Kurds that broke out in 1984.