Omer Asan

Age: 40

Profession: Writer of a acclaimed study of the language, culture and history of his home village in Trabzon, published as Pontus Kültürü (The Culture of the Pontus )in 1996. The book focuses on this traditionally Greek-speaking, Muslim community on the Black Sea coast.

The accusations: Around mid-December 2001, a Professor of Theology publicly condemned Asan during a TV discussion as being a traitor by associating with Pontic Greeks in the region who wanted to seize the derelict Byzantine monastry of Panagia Soumela. On 5 January 2002 Asan sought permission to respond to these accusations, which were ignored. However, on 12 January the same professor appeared again on the TV station denouncing Asan who was this time allowed to defend himself by telephone. On 19 January Asan appeared on the TV station in person on a discussion panel during which the same accusations were made against him. The discussion ended when the presenter accused Asan of insulting the memory of Ataturk, leading Asan to leave the studio.

Legal Action: On 21 January 2002, as a result of the TV debate, the State Security court ordered all copies of Asan’s book to be seized, and a summons was issued against him and his publisher to appear before the State Security Court on 25 January. The charges are of “separatist propaganda”. The result was that the case was forwarded to a civil court. On 25 March 2002, Asan was formally indicted under Law 3713 on charges of writings aimed at breaking state unity. He faces a penalty of between 14 months and 4 years in prison. First trial hearing held on 10 July 2002 before the Istanbul State Security Court no 6. Last hearing 8 November 2002.

Acquittal: In September 2003 Omer Asan was acquitted as a result of the abolition of Article 8 of the Anti-Terror Law.

Honorary Member: English PEN

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