DIYARBAKIR–Turkey (Reuters)–A Turkish security court on Friday began examining evidence against US academic Noam Chomsky for allegedly fomenting separatism during a visit to this mainly Kurdish city–security officials said.
Police turned over to the court cassettes and a translated version of Chomsky’s remarks on Thursday in which he reportedly said he hoped an independent Kurdish state would eventually be established. If the court finds evidence of a crime it could decide to charge Chomsky.
The furor surrounding Chomsky will also be seen in the context of Turkey’s EU aspirations. The European Union has urged Turkey to reform laws limiting freedom ofspeech and thought–and expects curbs on language and other cultural rights such as those on the Kurdish minority to be scrapped before membership talks can begin.
Chomsky–a professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology better known for his attacks on US foreign policy–was in Turkey this week to observe the trial of his 22-year-old publisher Fatih Tas–who had translated Chomsky’s work into Turkish.
An Istanbul court cleared Tas on Wednesday of charges he had threatened the unity of the state by publishing Chomsky’s accusations that Turkey had oppressed its Kurdish minority during violence between soldiers and Kurds that has killed more than 30,000 people since 1984.
Chomsky traveled to the southern city of Diyarbakir on Thursday before leaving Turkey on Friday.
According to a Turkish translation turned over to the court and seen by Reuters–Chomsky also told a meeting in Diyarbakir: "People’s right to speak in their mother tongue is an essential human right. It’s a mistake to even debate cultural rights."
In recent weeks Turkey has detained hundreds of people who had signed petitions calling for Kurdish language education in Turkish schools. Authorities fear greater cultural rights could lead its restive Kurdish population to demand more autonomy.