“We lost our liberty seeking freedom and justice for others; now we are [the ones] seeking freedom and justice for ourselves.”
Letter from Prison
A human rights lawyer, writer and Vice-President of the Human Rights Association (IHD), Muharrem Erbey has been imprisoned under the Anti-Terror Law since December 2009 on charges of “membership of an illegal organization”. Erbey is accused of involvement with the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), the alleged political front of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has been engaged in an armed struggle with the Turkish military since 1984. PEN is concerned that his charges are linked to his work as a human rights advocate, citing the lack of any material evidence linking him to terrorism or the plotting of violent acts.
Erbey has worked for many years as a human rights lawyer and advocate in the southeast of Turkey, compiling reports on disappearances and extra-judicial killings in the region, while also representing local individuals in provincial, national and international courts (including the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg). He has also had works published as a columnist and writer, and in 2007 he co-edited a collection of Turkish and Kurdish language stories by 35 authors. His latest short-story collection, My Father, Aharon Usta, has been put on hold since his 2009 arrest.
Erbey is one of scores of writers and journalists being tried under the auspices of the ‘KCK trials’, which have been ongoing since the first wave of arrests in April 2009. The writers and journalists being targeted under ‘KCK’ have tended to be those with a Kurdish, pro-Kurdish or pro-minority background, and the charges leveled against them are often vaguely defined and based on insubstantial evidence. Long spells in pre-trial detention are exacerbated by sluggish trial proceedings, often as a result of defendants being tried in large groups (including 44 journalists being tried together as KCK’s ‘Press Wing’). Other notable suspects in the KCK trials include publisher Ragıp Zarakolu, academic Büşra Ersanlı and translator Ayşe Berktay.
Please send appeals:
• Expressing serious concern for the prolonged pre-trial detention of human rights lawyer and writer Muharrem Erbey;
• Calling for his immediate and unconditional release if he is being held solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed under Article 19 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, ratified by the Republic of Turkey.
Send appeals to:
Mr Sadullah Ergin
Minister of Justice
Fax: 00 90 312 419 3370
Also to the Turkish ambassador in your country.
For further details contact Sara Whyatt at the Writers in Prison Committee London Office: Brownlow House, 50/51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER; UK Tel: +44 (0) 20 7405 0338; Fax: +44 (0) 20 7405 0339; email: Sara.Whatt@internationalpen.org.uk