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TURKEY: PEN Free Expression Award winner, Nedim Sener, and writer Ahmet Sik formally charged

Monday 7 March 2011 - 12:00am

RAN 10/11 update # 1 7 March 2011

The Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International protests the detention of writers Ahmet Sik and Nedim Sener, who were, on 6 March 2011, formally charged with being members of the Ergenekon organisation, and taken to Metris Prison in Istanbul to await trial. Both Sik and Sener are believed to be detained for their research into and writings about the Ergenekon investigation under which over 200 people are being tried on allegations of involvement in coup plots. PEN International considers that the two men are held solely for their writings and calls for their release.

Nedim Sener, who was awarded the 2010 Oxfam/Novib PEN Freedom of Expression award and who was also last year named World Press Freedom Hero by the International Press Institute, was tried and subsequently acquitted in 2010 for his book that implicates the Turkish security forces in the 2007 murder of the Turkish Armenian newspaper editor, Hrant Dink. He has since written two other books on related issues: Red Friday - Who Broke Dink's Pen? and Fetullah Gülen and the Gülen Community in Ergenekon Documents. The Gülen movement is an Islamic organisation that promotes inter-faith dialogue. It is thought that Sener's arrest is linked to his research into suggestions that the movement holds undue influence in the Ergenekon investigation. Furthermore, earlier this year Sener had written that he had received death threats for his comments that suggested police accused of negligence into the inquiry into Hrant Dink's death were also linked to Ergenekon.

Police are said to have seized the draft manuscript of a book by Ahmet Sik, who, like Sener, is the author of books investigating Ergenekon. He too is said to have looked into the alleged affiliation of police to the Gülen movement. He is already on trial for two books on Ergenekon, co-authored with journalist Ertugrul Maviolgu, that opened in October 2010 and for which, if convicted, he faces over four years in prison. The writers are accused of divulging state secrets.

Since June 2007 there have been a series arrests of leading figures in the military, politics and police, as well as writers, academics and journalists. Now numbering over 200, they are accused of membership of a neo-nationalist organisation known as Ergenekon. Its aim is said to be to overthrow the government and it is linked to several assassinations, including that of Hrant Dink. There have been concerns about the conduct of the investigation. The trials opened in October 2008 and are likely to go on for years.

Turkish journalists are shocked by the 3 March arrests, and have staged demonstrations in Istanbul and Ankara. Commenting on the recent raid, Ertugrul Mavioglu, who co-authored a book on Ergenekon with Sik pointed out that it was Sik ‘s articles, titled ‘Coup Diaries' published in 2007 in Nokta magazine (subsequently shut down) had led to the opening of the Ergenekon investigation itself. PEN Turkey has joined the protests against the arrests.

Others arrested on 3 March include:

Yalçin Küçük, a writer, historian and academic, and known for his strong secularist, left wing views. He was arrested January 2009 in the Ergenekon case, and freed pending trial which is still ongoing.

Dogan Yurdakal, author of a book on the Turkish intelligence services.

Mümtaz Idil, Iklim Ayfer Kaleli, Sait Çakir, Aydin Biyikli, Coskun Musluk, Müyesser Yildiz - all journalists working for Oda TV.

For more information go to:

The European Commission expresses concern at the arrests

Hurriyet on the support from journalists

Time magazine ‘Why is Turkey Arresting Journalists?"