News: TURKEY – Selek Trial Postponed as Defence Attorneys Challenge Appointment of Chief Trial Judge
RAN 75/12 Update #2 – 14 December 2012
The first hearing of writer, sociologist and feminist Pınar Selek’s incredible third retrial commenced on 13 December 2012 in a packed courtroom at the Çaĝlayan Courts of Justice in Istanbul. The Court ruled to postpone the trial to 24 January 2013, and gave Selek’s defence attorneys a week to submit their appeal against the appointment of the Chief Trial Judge presiding over the case (and who overturned Selek’s acquittal on 22 November 2012) to a higher court.
PEN is concerned by the drawn out nature of proceedings against Selek, and is worried that she is being subjected to a campaign of judicial harassment as a means of penalising her for her long standing support for and work on minority groups in Turkey. Selek fled Turkey a number of years ago as a result of the charges against her, and cannot return to the country and resume her work due to the threat of arrest and detention. If found guilty she faces life in prison with no chance of parole.
Selek is accused of involvement in an explosion at the Istanbul Spice Bazaar in 1998, a tragedy that led to the deaths of seven people and injuries to 127 others. She was arrested in July 1998, and then freed two and a half years later after a team of experts concluded that the explosion had not been caused by a bomb, but by the accidental ignition of a gas cylinder. Despite these findings, the case against Selek and her co-defendants continued, and in December 2005 a new trial was opened against her. This trial ended with an acquittal six months later in June 2006.
In March 2009, the Court of Appeals requested a review of the case and reversed the acquittal. This went to consideration, and in May 2009 Selek was acquitted for a second time. In February 2010, the Court of Appeals objected again, and sent the case for review once more. The lower court refused to conduct a review on the grounds that the acquittal was legitimately and fairly given, and upheld Selek’s acquittal in February 2011 for a third time. However, at a 22 November 2012 hearing, the lower court decided to drop its refusal and proceed with reopening the trial against Selek on grounds that the refusal had been ‘contrary to procedure’. The next hearing of the reopened trial will be heard on 24 January 2013 at the Çağlayan Courts of Justice, with all five suspects in the case being tried in absentia.
Commentators believe that the renewed prosecution of Selek is linked to her work as a sociologist researching Kurdish issues in the mid-to-late 1990s, and to contact with the banned Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK). According to PEN sources, no evidence has been presented that shows Selek to have been a member of the PKK or to have engaged in violent activities. It is widely believed that she is being pursued through the courts as a means of penalising her for her legitimate research and commentary. These concerns are intensified by the allegations that Selek, during her imprisonment from 1998-2000, suffered torture under investigation in an attempt to make her confess to the charges. For more information see previous PEN International alert.
For more information go to:
Please send appeals:
Expressing concern that another trial has been opened against Pınar Selek on charges of which she has already been acquitted three times.
Urging that the charges against Selek are dismissed.
Send appeals to:
Mr Sadullah Ergin
Minister of Justice
Fax: 00 90 312 419 3370
Also to the Turkish ambassador in your country.
**Please contact the PEN WiPC office in London if sending appeals after 14 February 2013**
For further information please contact Sara Whyatt at PEN 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: firstname.lastname@example.org