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PEN International applauds the publication of seized manuscript as Turkish writers rally around imprisoned journalist

Friday 18 November 2011 - 12:00am

18 November 2011

The book The Imam’s Army, by imprisoned journalist Ahmet Şık, has been published in Turkey, eight months after its digital draft was seized by the Turkish authorities. Edited and signed by 125 Turkish writers – among them the world-renowned Yaşar Kemal – the newly entitled OOOBook (000Kitap) was launched on 16 November at the Istanbul TÜYAP book fair. Collaborators and supporters attended a press conference at the stand of PEN Turkey, the Turkish branch of the international association of writers, PEN International, which has actively campaigned for Şık’s release.

Ahmet Şık has been in prison since March 2011. The Imam’s Army explores the authorities’ investigation into Ergenekon, a neo-nationalist organisation that hundreds of detainees are accused of being members of, and the alleged links between the Turkish police and the global religious Gülen movement. Şık finds himself accused of affiliation to Ergenekon and faces many years of imprisonment if found guilty.

Şık is just one of several writers who have been pursued for their investigations OF Ergenekon – the launch of OOOBook was organised by ANGA (Journalist Friends of Ahmet and Nedim), a civil society group that also highlights the detention of journalist Nedim Şener for works such as Fethullah Gülen and the Gülen Community in Ergenekon Documents. PEN International considers that the two men are being detained solely for their writing and calls for their release. PEN International considers the detention of Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener as emblematic cases in its global campaign ‘Day of the Imprisoned Writer 2011’.

The publication and shared editing of OOOBook is an act of great courage and conscience by Turkish writers and journalists, a fact echoed in the work’s subtitle: ‘He who touches gets burnt’ (‘Dokunan yanar’). From Arat Dink, editor of bilingual Turkish-Armenian daily Agos and son of his murdered predecessor Hrant Dink, to esteemed columnist and broadcaster Can Dündar and poet Murathan Mungan, 125 diverse writers have rallied for free speech in Turkey. As members of ANGA concluded:

“We fight for a Turkey where journalists are not being arrested because they do their job, where the news they report is not being obstructed and where the books they write are not being banned. To be brief: We will continue to lay our hands on these topics, even if we get burnt.”

For a French translation of this report click here.