Ragip Zarakolu

*** UPDATE (23 July 2010): We were extremely disappointed to learn that Ragip Zarakolu, publisher and free expression activist, is on trial again for publishing another book by author Mehmet Güler.  Both Zarakolu and Güiler are accused under the Anti Terror Law for Güler’s The KCK File/The Global State and Kurds Without a State. For more information, please click here. ***

*** UPDATE (15 June 2010): English PEN was delighted to learn that our Honorary Member, publisher and human rights activist Ragip Zarakolu who
has been subject to harassment, trials and periods of imprisonment
since the 1970s, was acquitted at a hearing on 10 June. For more
information, please click here.

*** UPDATE (8 April 2010): Publisher Ragip Zarakolu and author Mehmet Güler, on trial in Turkey since May 2009, face prison sentences of up to seven and half years for Güler’s novel More Difficult Decisions than Death.
Both are accused under article 7/2 of the Anti Terror Law of “spreading
propaganda” for the banned Kurdish Workers Party (PKK). A verdict is
expected to be given at the next trial hearing, due 10 June 2010.
English PEN considers the charges against Honorary Member Zarakolu and
his colleague Mehmet Güler to be in violation of their right to freedom
of expression. For more information, please click here.


Profession: publisher, Belge Publishing House. 


Zarakolu is this year’s winner of the International Publishers’
Association (IPA) Freedom to Publish Prize (2008). He was also a
recipient of the NOVIB/PEN Free Expression Award in 2003.


Zarakolu has been subject to many years of harassment, trials and
periods of imprisonment since the 1970s for publishing books on issues
such as minority and human rights. His publishing house was bombed by
right wing extremists in 1995, forcing his publishing house underground.


1) Brought to trial on 15 July 2002 on charges under Article 312 of
the Penal Code for an article entitled ‘The New Racist Attacks in
Turkey’, a critique of ultra nationalism.


2) Trial opened on 24 September 2003 under article 312 of the Penal Code for publication of the book 12 Eylul Rejimi Yargilaniyor (The Regime of 12 September on Trial),
edited by Dr Gazi Çaglar. Said to have referred to the activities of
the Turkish forces in South Eastern Turkey as ‘organised genocide’.
Acquitted 3 December 2003.


3) On 3 December 2003, further charges were initiated under article 312 against Zarakolu for an article published in Özgür Politika
on 8 March 2003 entitled ‘Sana Ne’ (‘Of No Interest’) that criticised
Turkey’s policy towards the Kurds in Iraq. Trial opened 26 May 2004.
Also accused are Ali Çelik Kasimogullari and Mehmet Çolak, owner and
editor in chief of Özgür Gündem (since closed) respectively. At a
final hearing on 10 September 2004, Kasimogullari was sentenced to a
fine and Çolak to a six month sentence reduced to a fine. Zarakolu’s
case, however, was considered different due to recent changes to Article
312 and will continue to be tried at the Penal Court of First Instance
in Istanbul. Hearing on 2 March 2005 postponed to 12 May 2005, and again
to 11 October.


4) Legal proceedings were initiated in December 2004 against  Zarakolu for publishing George Jerjian’s History Will Set Us Free: Turkish-Armenian Conciliation
under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code and for insulting the
memory of the Kemal Ataturk. This trial ended with an aquittal when the
court concluded that the publication could not be penalised as the
author is not a resident in Turkey.
5) As of August 2005,
another case was opened under Article 301 which continues against
Zarakolu, this time related to the publication of a book by Dr. Dora
Sakayan entitled An Armenian Doctor in Turkey: Garabed Hatcherian: My Smyrna Ordeal of 1922.
The trial has also been under way for a considerable period with its
first hearing held in August 2005. There are fears that this trial
hearing will end with the sentencing of Zarakolu, and may even result in
up to three years imprisonment.


6) Zarakolu has recently been given a five-month sentence in June
2008, which was subsequently commuted to a fine, for “insulting the
state” under the notorious Article 301. This is the first conviction
under this article since it was revised in April.


As Chair of the Freedom to Publish Committee of
the Turkish Publishers’ Association, Zarakolu has issued a report which
welcomes the fact that publishers are no longer liable for
prosecution for books they publish, leading to acquittals and dismissal
of cases, however he regrets that publishers remain liable where the
author lives abroad and that some of the risks have been transferred to


Honorary member: American, English, Scottish, Quebec, Kurdish, Canadian, Netherlands and Swedish PEN Centres.

Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/writersinprison/honorarymembers/turkey/ragipzarakolu/

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