RAN 23/13 23 May 2013
The Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International is calling for the immediate and unconditional release of writers, journalists, academics and published detained and on trial in Turkey. Thousands of people are believed to be on trial in Turkey as part of the on-going Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) investigation, a crackdown on pro-Kurdish politicians, lawyers, journalists and intellectuals which has been underway since 2009. Defendants include a large number of writers, academics, and other literary professionals of concern to PEN, several of whom will be tried at a mass hearing in Silivri Court, Istanbul next Monday 27 May. Many among those on trial and in prison are accused only for their engagement in debates on Kurdish issues, taking part in meetings and other activities that in no way can be seen to promote violence.
Of particular concern to PEN is translator and founding member of the World Tribunal on Iraq Ayşe Berktay. Detained on 3 October 2011, Berktay was eventually charged under the Anti-Terror Law with ‘membership of an illegal organisation’ for allegedly ‘planning to stage demonstrations aimed at destabilising the state, plotting to encourage women to throw themselves under police vehicles so as to create a furore, and attending meetings outside Turkey on behalf of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK)’. Winner of PEN America’s 2013 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award, Berktay remains detained in Bakırköy Women’s Prison in Istanbul, and could face up to 15 years in prison if found guilty.
Of further concern to PEN is author, translator and PhD candidate Deniz Zarakolu who was arrested at his home in Istanbul in October 2011 and has been detained ever since. Also charged with ‘membership of an illegal organisation’, Zarakolu faces up to 12 years in prison if found guilty.
PEN also continues to protest the charges against Deniz’s father and one of Turkey’s most prominent free expression activists, the publisher Ragip Zarakolu, and academic and political scientist Professor Büşra Ersanlı. Whilst both Ragip Zarakolu and Professor Ersanlı were released pending trial in 2012, in part due to pressure from the international community, they could nevertheless face sentences of between 7 ½ and 22 ½ years in prison if found guilty as charged under the Anti-Terror Law.
PEN firmly believes that the charges against Ayşe Berktay, Deniz Zarakolu, Ragip Zarakolu and Büşra Ersanlı are in violation of their right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Turkey is a signatory. We are therefore calling for the release of Ayşe Berktay and Deniz Zarakolu, and for all charges against them and their co-defendants to be dropped immediately and unconditionally.
Thousands of people are believed to be on trial in Turkey as part of the ongoing KCK investigation, a crackdown on pro-Kurdish politicians, lawyers, journalists and intellectuals which has been underway since 2009. The Koma Civakên Kurdistan – Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) is the alleged political front for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been engaged in armed conflict with the Turkish state since 1984. Following a ceasefire earlier this year, the PKK has reportedly now begun the withdrawal of its fighters from Turkish territory.
See the PEN International website www.pen-international.org for recent alerts on Turkey
For a recent overview on free expression in Turkey, see Amnesty International's March 2013 report http://amnesty.org/en/library/asset/EUR44/001/2013/en/2f995e94-75e3-4a73-b50c-28f7e84f46d8/eur440012013en.pdf
To keep abreast of news on freedom of exprssion, human rights and civil society in Turkey visit www.bianet.org/eng
Sign and share the petition
PEN International, the Initiative for Free Expression in Turkey, PEN American Center and the International Freedom of Expression Exchange recently launched a petition for the release of Ayşe Berktay. Please take a moment to sign and share the petition.
Send messages of support
If you would be interested in sending a message of support directly to Ayşe Berktay and Deniz Zarakolu please email email@example.com for further details.
Send letters of appeal
Stating that the charges against the defendants are in violation of their rights to freedom of expression and association as guaranteed by both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention on Human and Democratic Rights, to which Turkey is a signatory
Calling for the immediate release of Ayşe Berktay, Deniz Zarakolu, and the numerous other writers and journalists currently detained in Turkey because of their alleged affiliation with Kurdish political parties;
Requesting that the charges against those who have been released pending trial, including Ragip Zarakolu and Büşra Ersanlı, be dropped immediately and unconditionally.
Mr Sadullah Ergin
Minister of Justice
Fax: 00 90 312 419 3370
Also send appeals to the ambassador of Turkey in your own country.
**Please contact the PEN WiPC office in London if sending appeals after
20 June 2013**