ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP) _ Citing a recent softening of an anti-terrorism law, a court acquitted a prominent Turkish novelist today on charges that he promoted Kurdish separatism.

The acquittal could encourage the European Parliament to approve a trade pact sought by Turkey later this month. The European group has been critical of Turkey's human rights record.

Yasar Kemal, 71, was charged under anti-terror laws for an article he wrote for the German magazine Der Spiegel last January. The story accused the Turkish army of destroying Kurdish villages.

Kemal, best known for his 1955 book ``Memed, My Hawk,'' has been nominated for the Nobel Prize in literature. He has written 36 books, many of them translated into foreign languages.

``One person's acquittal does not mean freedom of expression has arrived. You can't have spring with only one flower,'' he said,

``We still have to work very hard to achieve democracy in Turkey. I will continue to write these things until there are no trials against expression.''

Under pressure from Turkey's Western allies, Parliament softened the anti-terror law in October. The prosecution now must prove intent of separatism for a guilty verdict.

The conflict in southeastern Turkey between rebel Kurds seeking autonomy and the Turkish military has claimed more than 20,000 lives since 1984.

``The acquittal, although that's what we wanted, at this stage does not make any legal sense. This was obviously a political decision,'' said Kemal's lawyer, Enver Nalbant.