On 8 July another hearing took place at an Istanbul court in the two court cases started last year against two translators and their publishers. One case concerns the translation and publication of the novel The Soft Machine by William Burroughs, translated by Mr Süha Sertabiboğlu and published by Sel Yayınları. The second concerns the Turkish edition of the novel Sniff by Chuck Palahniuk, translated by Ms Funda Uncu and published by Ayrıntı Yayınları.
The publishers and translators involved are charged with article 226 of the Turkish Penal Code for distributing books that are considered indecent and in violation of moral standards. Since this article does not apply to literary works, the court commissioned three academics to write an expertise on the novels’ literary value. Shortly before the hearing the court received the reports, confirming the literary status of both novels. For the two translators and both publishers this ought to have meant acquittal of all charges, however, the night before the hearing on 8 July the Turkish President, Abdullah Gül, had approved a package of legal reforms, one of which involves the press law.
Although the judge stated during the hearing that he would have acquitted the defendants of all charges, he decided to suspend the verdict for a period of three years in accordance with the new press law. In other words, if similar charges were raised against the defendants within the next three years, their present files would be opened again.
The publishers called the new press law a sword of Damocles but made it very clear that they would not change their publishing policy. Both of them decided to appeal.