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Turkey: Court rejects writer, newspaper board member's appeal

Thursday 8 September 2016 - 1:00am

asli18 September 2016 - On 5 September 2016, Istanbul's Fifth Criminal Judgeship of Peace rejected writer, activist and PEN member Aslı Erdoğan's appeal against her detention pending trial. Erdoğan, a well-known author and board member of the now closed, pro-Kurdish daily newspaper Özgür Gündem was arrested on 17 August 2016 from her home in Istanbul following a raid on the newspaper's office in Istanbul the previous day. During the initial days of her detention, Erdoğan - who suffers from asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and diabetes – said that she was held in poor prison conditions and was denied essential medication for five days, as well as requests for water. PEN International continues to call for her immediate and unconditional release.

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Send Appeals to the Turkish authorities:

  • Urging them to immediately release Aslı Erdoğan who PEN believes is held solely in connection with her peaceful exercise of her right to freedom of expression;
  • Calling for all detained writers and journalists to have access to lawyers and to be released if they are not to be charged with a recognizably criminal offence and tried promptly in accordance with international fair trial standards;
  • Calling for decisions of criminal judgeships of the peace to be subject to appeal before the ordinary courts in line with other appeals;
  • Calling on them not to use the state of emergency to crack down on peaceful dissent, civil society, media and education;

Please send appeals reiterating PEN’s calls (listed above) to:

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
Cumhurbaşkanlığı Külliyesi
06560 Beştepe-Ankara
Tel : (+90 312) 525 55 55
Fax : (+90 312) 525 58 31
Twitter: @RT_Erdogan

Please copy your appeals to the Embassy of Turkey in your country.  A list of embassies can be found here.

Please send us copies of your letters or information about other activities and of any responses received.

Send messages of support

Send messages and postcards of solidarity and support to Aslı Erdoğan in prison at the following address:

Ms. Asli Erdogan
Bakirkoy Kadin Kapali Tutukevi
C-9 Kogusu
Bakirkoy - Istanbul - Turkey

We also encourage you to take photo of the postcard and share on social media with hashtag: #yazarimadokunma (don't touch my author.


PEN members are encouraged to publish articles and opinion pieces in your national or local press highlighting the case of Aslı Erdoğan and the situation of freedom of expression in Turkey. Please also consider adopting her as an honorary member of your Centre.


Aslı Erdoğan, a renowned novelist, columnist and human rights activist, in Turkey was detained on 17 August following a police raid into her apartment. Her arrest comes alongside more than 20 other journalists and employees from Özgür Gündem newspaper, a pro-Kurdish opposition daily, which was shut down by decree as part of the state of emergency in the country following the failed coup of 15 July 2016. Two further journalists from IMC TV, who were reporting on the raid, were also arrested. Erdoğan serves as an advisory board member and columnist in the paper.

While recognizing the right of the Turkish authorities to bring those responsible for crimes during the attempted coup to justice, PEN International calls on the Turkish authorities to safeguard freedom of expression, human rights and respect their obligations under international law during the state of emergency declared after the coup attempt and to release all journalists and writers held solely in connection with their peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression, including Aslı Erdoğan.

Aslı Erdoğan’s first novel, Kabuk Adam (Crust Man), was published in 1994 and since published seven books. Her short story Wooden Birds received first prize from Deutsche Welle radio in a 1997 competition and her second novel, Kirmizi Pelerinli Kent (The City in Crimson Cloak), received numerous accolades abroad and has been published in 15 language translations. Her texts have also been translated to French and in 2005 she was shortlisted by respected French literary magazine, Lire, as one of the “50 most promising authors of tomorrow.”

On 24 August 2016, in an interview given to the Turkish daily Cumhuriyet from the detention centre where she is being held, Erdogan – who suffers from asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and diabetes – said that she is being held in awful conditions and has been denied essential medication for five days, as well as requests for water.

Criminal judgeships of the peace, which supervise criminal investigations, were created in 2014 during a reorganisation of the judiciary in the context of a rising conflict between the Gülenist movement, led by US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, and the ruling AKP party which has designated the Gülenist movement as a terrorist organisation, aiming to create a ‘parallel state’ in Turkey.  According to the Law on Criminal Procedure, these courts have the power to issue search, arrest and detention warrants. They are also entitled to judicially review the decisions of public prosecutors on non-prosecution. They also have the power to decide on censorship and to review administrative decisions to block websites. The lack of independence of criminal judges of the peace has been widely criticised within the Turkish legal community and by international NGOs. The judges, mainly appointed by the AKP after the 2014 reorganisation, have also enforced free speech restriction, in particular on internet censorship and in cases of alleged ‘insult’ to the president.

According to the International Commission of Jurists:

Means of appeals from decisions of criminal judges of peace are very limited. Except in the highly exceptional circumstances in which a case can be referred to the Constitutional

Court, the only appeal is to another criminal judge of peace of the same district. Effectively, therefore, there is a closed system of appeals within the criminal judgeships of the peace, with minimal recourse to the wider courts system. This situation is particularly worrying given the allegations of lack of independence of judges of these courts.

The lack of appeal from the decisions of the criminal judges of peace calls into question the effectiveness of the remedies available within the national system for violations of human rights in the investigative process and puts in doubt the capacity of the legal system to provide the guarantees required by many of these rights, including the rights to liberty and to respect for the home and privacy.