30 October 2017 – PEN International is concerned about the on-going criminal proceedings against author and academic Hamide Yiğit. Yiğit is currently standing trial in several cases in Ankara and Istanbul. Yiğit’s persecution is related to her publications critical of Turkish policy vis-à-vis Syria and the so-called Islamic State, and the role of several persons and organisations close to President Erdoğan therein.
‘PEN International believes Hamide Yiğit is being persecuted only because she has peacefully exercised her right to freedom of expression. We call on the Turkish authorities to immediately and unconditionally drop all criminal charges against her’, said Salil Tripathi, chairperson of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee.
In 2015, the Ankara Directorate of National Education placed Yiğit under investigation pursuant to a letter they received, allegedly from a parent of one of her students. Although it later surfaced that the complainant had no links to any student in the Turkish education system, the Directorate nevertheless filed a criminal complaint against Yiğit upon completion of their investigation based on her social media activity, which they considered to comprise terrorist propaganda and constitute defamation of the state and the President of the Republic. Based on the Directorate’s complaint, the prosecutor’s office in Ankara opened two separate court cases against Yiğit, one for insulting the head of state and the other for ‘insulting Turkishness’. This latter count is grounded in the infamous Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, which has been used in several high-profile cases, including those brought against Orhan Pamuk and Hrant Dink.
While the judicial investigation in Ankara was underway, in November 2016 Yiğit published Tekmili Birden IŞİD- El Kaide’den IŞİD’e; Amerika için Cihat (‘The Full Scope of ISIS – al Qaeda to ISIS; Jihad for Amerika’), a book which investigates alleged links between Turkey and the so-called Islamic State. Following its publication, several court cases were initiated against Yiğit in Istanbul.
First, the Humanitarian Relief Foundation filed a civil claim demanding the book be withdrawn from stores and Yiğit be fined 40,000 liras, as the organisation considers her book to be libellous.
Second, the Istanbul prosecutor’s office initiated a criminal case against Yiğit comprising two charges for criminal libel (against the Humanitarian Relief Foundation and against Bilal Erdoğan, who is President Erdoğan’s son), one charge of insult to civil servants (against Berat Albayra, who is the President’s son-in-law and Minister of Energy and Natural Resources) and charges of terror propaganda and praising terrorism. The latter charges were split from the main file at the hearing on 27 September 2017 and will be pursued in Istanbul’s 30th High Criminal Court, while the insult charges will be continued in Istanbul’s 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance.
Third, the Istanbul prosecutor requested permission from the Justice Department to open an investigation under Article 301 of the Penal Code, which was granted and led to a separate criminal case against Yiğit for insulting the Turkish state and the government.
Yiğit, who taught for 28 years, was forced to resign from her teaching position in July 2017. Further, she held administrative positions at Eğitim-Sen (the Education and Science Workers Union), which was closed down following the attempted coup in July 2016 leaving scores of its members dismissed or suspended from civil service.
In 2013 Yiğit published AKP’nin Suriye Savaşı-Erdoğan’ın Yıkılan Hayalleri (‘AKP’s Syrian War and Erdoğan’s Failing Dreams’), followed the next year by Libya’da Kanlı Bahar-Sizi Özgürleştirmek için Öldürdük (‘A Bloody Spring in Libya- We Killed You to Free You’). Since 2008, she has been the editor of publications at Eğitim, Bilim ve Toplum (‘Education, Science and Society’) magazine.
In addition to its call for an end to the persecution of Yiğit, PEN International repeats its call on Turkey to repeal its criminal defamation laws, in line with its obligations under international universal and regional human rights law, and to abolish Article 301 of the Penal Code.
For further details contact Laurens Hueting at PEN International, Koops Mill, 162-164 Abbey Street, London, SE1 2AN, UK Tel: +44 (0) 20 7405 0338, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org