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Chomsky publisher cleared in Turkey

A Turkish publisher who printed political essays by US academic Noam Chomsky has been acquitted by a court of producing propaganda against the unity of the Turkish state.
The author himself had travelled to Istanbul to lend his support to Fatih Tas, who would have faced a prison sentence if found guilty.

Mr Chomsky said he hoped the ruling would help "establish" freedom of speech in Turkey.

The book, "American Interventionism", contains critical references to Turkey's 15-year struggle with its Kurdish minority, accusing Washington of supporting human rights abuses committed by the Turkish Government.

- 'Kurd cleansing'

Mr Chomsky, who is professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is famous for his attacks on US foreign policy.

In the essay entitled Prospects for Peace in the Middle East, Professor Chomsky criticises the United States for supplying weapons to the Turkish Government, which he says used them to perpetrate "intensive ethnic cleansing" against the Kurds.

Mr Tas, who was being tried under Turkey's anti-terrorism laws, said that Mr Chomsky's presence had influenced the court's decision.

"If Chomsky hadn't been here... we wouldn't have expected such a verdict," he said.

The prosecuting lawyer accepted the defence lawyers' demand for an acquittal, saying he "understood that the book did not seek to divide the Turkish nation".

Mr Chomsky said the prosecutor had made "clearly the right decision".

"I hope that it will serve as a step towards establishing the freedom of speech in Turkey that I'm sure all of us want to see realised," he said.

Correspondents say a conviction would have been likely to have drawn international condemnation at a time when Turkey is trying to push itself closer to European Union membership.

In 1999, the outlawed Kurdish PKK ended a 15-year armed struggle for self-rule after the capture and trial of rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan. The conflicts claimed some 36,500 lives.



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