Turkey: Writer and academic Ragip Zarakolu formally charged alongside Professor Büşra Ersanlı

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English PEN has learned that on 1 November 2011, our Honorary Member writer, academic and publisher Ragip Zarakolu was formally charged under the Anti Terror Law, alongside Professor Büşra Ersanlı. We have received further details that lead us to fear that the charges are related to the exercise of their right to freedom of expression.

As reported by PEN International on 31 October, Zarakolu was arrested alongside Professor Büşra Ersanlı as part of mass arrests two days earlier. We understand that he has been charged with “membership of an illegal organisation” – reportedly related to a speech he made at an event by the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy (BDP) party, and articles published in the newspaper Ögür Gündem (Free Agenda). Zarakolu has reportedly filed an appeal, however, he faces months in pre-trial detention if this is unsuccessful. We are seeking further details in relation to his detention. 

On 1 November, Zarakolu and Ersanlı were taken to the Istanbul Courthouse. Bianet.org reports that during their hearing hundreds of people gathered outside the courthouse in protest. They allegedly held copies of Ersanlı’s book ‘Peace and History’ and chanted slogans demanding their release. Over 40 other individuals who were also arrested on 28 October 2011 were taken to the hearing and subsequently detained pending investigations.
 
Background

Ragip Zarakolu and Professor Büşra Ersanlı were arrested on 28 October 2011. Forty one people had also been arrested around the same time under what is known as the Democratic Society Congress (Koma Civaken Kurdistan – KCK) operation that has been under way since 2009 leading to several hundred, some say over 1,000, arrests and trials. The KCK is seen as its civil/political wing front for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), and thus also illegal.
 
Human rights groups monitoring the operation have reported concerns over a number of areas including lengthy pre-trial detention without bail (some have been held pending trial since the start of the operation in April 2009), that the charges may be politically motivated, and that fair trial standards are being ignored. Trade union and human rights activists, mayors and local politicians are among those arrested. For more on the KCK arrests read a report by the Kurdistan Human Rights Project..
 
Among the organisations being linked to the KCK is the Peace and Democracy Party (Barış ve Demokrasi Partisi – BDP). Thirty BDP representatives took their seats in the Turkish parliament on 1 October, among them longstanding Kurdish rights activist, Leyla Zana, a former PEN case. The BDP was created after the Democratic Society Party (DTP) was forcibly closed down in 2009 on accusation of affiliation to the PKK. The BDP has made it clear that is not affiliated to the PKK and that it does not influence it political policy. Despite this, BDP and former DTP members have been arrested and harassed. Some activists claim that over 1,000 have been arrested on charges ranging from speaking Kurdish, making statements critical of the government, as well as having links to the KCK. The United Nations High Commission on Refugees has recently issued an analysis of the BDP and events since its formation in early 2010.
 
Professor Büşra Ersanli is an academic based at Istanbul’s Marmara university’s  Faculty of Political Science and International Relations. She is an expert on constitutional law and at the time of her arrest was working with the BDP’s Constitutional Commission.  
 
Ragip Zarakolu is a well known political activist who has been fighting for freedom of expression in Turkey for over 30 years, publishing books on issues such as minority and human rights. In the days running up to his arrest, he had been campaigning for the release of his son, Deniz Zarakolu, who had been arrested three weeks earlier on 7 October, also under the KCK operation. Deniz is a PhD student of political thought and has translated academic works including Thomas Hobbes’ De Cive.

Among the early KCK operation arrests was Muharrem Erbey, lawyer, writer and Turkey PEN member, arrested in December 2009. Erbey is still detained, and his trial is underway.  Representatives from PEN Centres have observed his trial.

PEN is monitoring the cases of several other writers similarly arrested for links to Kurdish political parties.

TAKE ACTION

Please send appeals:

- Condemning the charges against Ragip Zarakolu and Professor Büşra Ersanli which appear to have resulted from his exercise of his right to free expression, and calling for his immediate release.
- Also expressing alarm at the arrests of Deniz Zarakolu, as well as the continued detention of Muharrem Erbey, and other writers and journalists accused for their affiliation with Kurdish political parties.
- Referring to concerns that the arrests flout international standards protecting the 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.
- Raising concerns that the trial are politically biased and do not conform to fair trial standards, and seeking assurances that these concerns are addressed as a matter of urgency.
 
Send appeals to:

Mr Sadullah Ergin
Minister of Justice
06669 Kizilay
Ankara
Turkey
Fax: 00 90 312 419 3370

His Excellency Mr. Ünal Çeviköz
Embassy of the Republic of Turkey
43 Belgrave Square,
London
SW1X 8PA
Fax: 020 7393 9213
Email: embassy.london@mfa.gov.tr

Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/writersinprison/wipcnews/turkeywriterandacademicragipzarakoluformallychargedalongsideprofessorbraersanl/

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