RAN 23/13: TURKEY

PEN International is calling for the immediate and unconditional release of various writers, journalists, and academics currently detained and/or on trial in Turkey. Thousands of people are believed to be on trial in Turkey as part of the ongoing 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 particular concern to PEN, several of whom will be tried at a mass hearing in Silivri Court, Istanbul, beginning on Monday, May 27. Many of 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 can in no way be seen to promote violence.

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Background Information

Of particular concern to PEN is the plight of writer, translator, activist, and founding member of the World Tribunal on Iraq, Ayşe Berktay. Detained on October 3, 2011, Berktay was eventually charged under the Anti-Terror Law with "membership of an illegal organization" for allegedly "planning to stage demonstrations aimed at destabilizing the state, plotting to encourage women to throw themselves under police vehicles so as to create a furor, and attending meetings outside Turkey on behalf of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK)." Winner of PEN American Center’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 organization," 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, publisher Ragip Zarakolu, as well as academic and political scientist Professor Büşra Ersanlı. While 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 7.5 and 22.5 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.

Further Information

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 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. Click Here to Read PEN's Letter of Appeal.

Write a Letter

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.

Send Your Letter To

Minister of Justice
Mr Sadullah Ergin
Minister of Justice
06669 Kizilay
Ankara
Turkey
Fax: 00 90 312 419 3370
Email: sadullahergin@adalet.gov.tr

Please also send appeals to the diplomatic representative for Turkey in your country.

***Please send appeals immediately. Check with PEN International if sending appeals after July 20, 2013***

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.

If you would be interested in sending a message of support directly to Ayşe Berktay and Deniz Zarakolu please email sara.whyatt@pen-international.org for further details.

The period for signing this petition is now over.