Turkey: PEN concerned by continuing judicial harassment of Pınar Selek

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PEN concerned by continuing judicial harassment of Pınar Selek

(Istanbul, 3 October 2014) The decision of an Istanbul court to continue the trial of Turkish sociologist and feminist Pınar Selek 16 years on from the beginning of her legal ordeal is a deeply concerning miscarriage of justice, PEN International and PEN American Center said today, having observed the latest hearing of her marathon trial in Çağlayan, Istanbul. PEN called for an end to the ongoing judicial harassment of Selek, an academic and sociologist.

The ongoing trial of Pınar Selek after sixteen years and three acquittals casts a long shadow over the Turkish justice system, ‘said Katy Glenn Bass, Deputy Director of Free Expression Programs at the PEN American Center.

While we welcome the court’s decision to lift the arrest warrant and life sentence faced by Pınar Selek it seems absurd that a respected academic and sociologist could be on trial for so long in the absence of any substantial evidence.

The trial against Selek is set to continue on 5 December 2014.

Pınar Selek has been caught in a tangled web of judicial harassment for the past 16 years,’ said Alev Yaman, PEN International’s Turkey Researcher/Campaigner, who attended the trial hearing with Katy Glenn Bass.

This state of affairs should be as big a concern for the Turkish public at large as it is for Pınar Selek as it demonstrates the dysfunctionality inherent to the Turkish justice system, where trials have a habit of almost indefinitely dragging on for years on end.

PEN also called on the government of Turkey to take necessary steps to ensure that trials are completed in a timely manner at a time when trials like Pınar Selek’s and those relating to Ergenekon and KCK appear to have no end in sight.


Pınar Selek, who has been forced to flee Turkey, is being tried over a 1998 explosion that killed seven and injured 100 in the Istanbul Spice Bazaar. She has been acquitted of all charges three times in the last 16 years due to the testimony of expert witnesses claiming that the cause of the 1998 explosion was a gas leak rather than a bomb, although courts have ordered retrials after each of these acquittals.

PEN has supported Pınar Selek for a number of years in her struggle to clear her name, with centres such as PEN Turkey and German PEN having a long track record of observing her trials, as does PEN International Vice-President Eugene Schoulgin. Lawyer and PEN Turkey member Sabri Kuşkonmaz is part of the legal team representing Pınar Selek in court.

More information:


For further information please contact Alev Yaman at International PEN Writers in Prison Committee, Brownlow House, 50/51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER, Tel: + 44 (0) 20 7405 0338, Fax: +44 (0) 20 7405 0339, email: alev.yaman@pen-interantional.org

Note to editors:

PEN International promotes literature and freedom of expression and is governed by the PEN Charter and the principles it embodies: unhampered transmission of thought within each nation and between all nations. Founded in 1921, PEN International connects an international community of writers from its Secretariat in London. It is a forum where writers meet freely to discuss their work; it is also a voice speaking out for writers silenced in their own countries. Through Centres in over 100 countries, PEN operates on five continents. PEN International is a non-political organisation which holds Special Consultative Status at the UN and Associate Status at UNESCO. International PEN is a registered charity in England and Wales with registration number 1117088. www.pen-international.org

PEN American Center is the largest of the 140+ centers of PEN International, the world’s only international association of writers working to defend free expression and protect persecuted writers. Founded in 1922, PEN American Center works to advance literature, to defend free expression, and to foster international literary fellowship. Its 3,500 distinguished members carry on the achievements in literature and advancement of human rights of such past members as James Baldwin, Arthur Miller, Susan Sontag, and John Steinbeck. www.pen.org