Turkey: Sociologist Pınar Selek acquitted for the fourth time in 16 years


(London, 19 December 2014) PEN International along with PEN Turkey, PEN American Center, Norwegian PEN and German PEN today welcomed the news that sociologist, feminist and writer Pınar Selek has been acquitted of all charges by the 15th High Criminal Court in Istanbul. Today’s decision marks an extraordinary fourth acquittal in 16 years for Selek, who has been repeatedly tried on accusations of involvement in the 1998 Istanbul Spice Bazaar explosion. Selek had been facing life in prison under the charges brought by the Istanbul Public Prosecutor.

“We sincerely hope that today’s acquittal marks the end of 16 years of trials and retrials for Pınar Selek,” said Ann Harrison, Programme Director of the PEN International Writers in Prison Committee. “For too long, the judicial harassment of Pınar Selek has been a great stain on Turkey’s human rights record. It now falls on the Turkish authorities to ensure that that persecution has ended once and for all.”

Selek had been on trial for 16 years over a 1998 explosion that killed seven and injured 100 in the Istanbul Spice Bazaar. Selek had previously been acquitted of all charges three times (in 2006, 2008 and 2011) due to the testimony of expert witnesses that claimed that the cause of the explosion was a gas leak rather than a bomb, although courts ordered retrials after each of these acquittals. Her fourth trial resulted in a conviction in January 2013 when Selek was handed an aggravated life sentence, although this conviction was overturned by Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals on 11 June 2014 on procedural grounds.

Today’s decision resulted in Selek’s fourth acquittal and was granted because the court found “irreconcilable contradictions” between the prosecution’s claims and the expert reports over the causes of the explosion. In its closing statements the court ruled that in the absence of clear evidence the trial against Selek could not continue.

Tarık Günersel, President of PEN Turkey said, “The 16 year-long campaign of persecution conducted against our dear peace and justice-loving member Pınar Selek has finally come to an end.”

Katy Glenn Bass, Deputy Director of Free Expression Programs at PEN American Center said, “While we heartily welcome the news of Pinar’s acquittal, it comes after 16 years of judicial harassment that forced Pinar to leave Turkey and subjected her to years of unimaginable stress and heartbreak. We sincerely hope that today’s acquittal marks the definitive end of her long ordeal.”

William Nygaard, President of Norwegian PEN said, “The judicial persecution of Pınar Selek is one of the grossest abuses perpetrated by the Turkish courts. It is our hope that today’s hearing marks the final chapter in Pınar’s 16 year ordeal.”

Regula Venske, General Secretary of German PEN said, “Pinar Selek was in our Writers-in-Exile Program from December 2009 until November 2011, so German PEN has been observing her case for quite a while. There has always been only one rational legal solution: Pinar Selek´s acquittal and total rehabilitation. That somebody should be acquitted four times sounds somewhat absurd in itself. But we do hope that today will mark the end of what has been a Kafkaesque case, and that Pinar Selek will get compensation for having had to suffer 16 years of injustice. On this day, we send our deepest sympathy and solidarity to all who have been supporting Pinar Selek along the years and wish her all the best!”