English PEN warmly welcomes the release of two journalists following the latest hearing of the alleged KCK ‘press wing’ in Silivri, Turkey, but remains gravely concerned for the 24 others who remain in detention.
Ahead of this most recent hearing, 26 journalists alleged to be part of the KCK ‘press wing’ remained detained in prison facilities in Istanbul. Today, 26 April, the court ruled that just two of those journalists – Zeyneb Kuray and Sadık Topaloğlu – would be released pending trial. The next hearing will take place on 17 June 2013.
English PEN was relieved to learn that Zeyneb Kuray, one of our primary cases of concern, was one of the journalists to be released. Kuray was arrested in December 2011 and charged with ‘membership of an armed organisation’ under Article 314/2 of the Turkish Penal Code and ‘membership of a terrorist organisation’ under Article 5 of the Anti-Terror Law. However, the indictment against her showed no evidence of material links to terrorism or the plotting of violent acts, instead making references to telephone conversations she had with other journalists, articles she wrote about the alleged sexual harassment of female Turkish Airlines employees, and an investigative piece questioning whether chemical weapons had been used against PKK fighters by the Turkish army.
English PEN has been actively campaigning for Zeyneb Kuray’s release, using the recent London Book Fair, at which Turkey was the market focus, to highlight her case and that of her co-defendants. We have been lobbying the authorities for her release, and encouraging our supporters to send appeal letters on her behalf, as well as messages of support and books directly to the prison in Istanbul where she was being held.
The latest trial hearing, which began on Monday 22 April, was also of particular significance because defendants were allowed to defend themselves in Kurdish for the first time. A 68-day hunger strike involving detained KCK suspects including Zeyneb Kuray is seen to have been instrumental in the passing of the new law allowing Kurdish defendants to speak their mother tongue in court earlier this year.
Jo Glanville, Director of English PEN, said:
“Whilst we welcome the release of Zeyneb Kuray and Sadık Topaloğlu, we remain concerned that they are being penalised for their legitimate coverage of the Kurdish issue. We believe that the charges against them and others involved in the trial are in violation of their rights to non-violent freedom of expression and association, principles to which the Turkish government is committed as a signatory to the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights. We are therefore calling for the release of all those who remain detained, and for the charges against them to be dropped.”
The trial of the alleged KCK ‘press wing’ is part of a larger crackdown on pro-Kurdish politicians, lawyers, journalists and intellectuals known as the KCK operation, which has been underway since 2009. The Koma Civakên Kurdistan (KCK) (Union of Communities in Kurdistan) 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. Thousands of people are believed to be on trial as part of the ongoing KCK investigation. Defendants include a large number of writers, journalists, academics, and other literary professionals of concern to PEN, many of whom could face lengthy prison sentences if found guilty.
ENGLISH PEN: TURKEY FOCUS 2013
Throughout 2013, English PEN is campaigning on freedom of expression in Turkey. The campaign aims to raise awareness of current threats to writers, publishers, translators and journalists; to promote literature from Turkey in translation; and to engage in public discussion and debate with writers, artists and intellectuals from Turkey.
Send letters of appeal
- Welcoming the release pending trial of journalist Zeyneb Ceren Kuray and Sadık Topaloğlu;
- Expressing concern that the charges against Kuray and her co-defendants are in violation of her right to free expression, as guaranteed by 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 and unconditional release of the many other writers and journalists currently detained in Turkey.
Mr Sadullah Ergin
Minister of Justice
Fax: 00 90 312 419 3370
His Excellency Mr. Ünal Çeviköz
43 Belgrave Square
Fax: 020 7393 9213
Or you could use the form below. A sample letter is provided but it is always better if you put the appeal in your own words.
[ecampaign ‘firstname.lastname@example.org‘ subject=”Welcoming the release pending trial of Kuray and Topaloğlu”]
I am writing to you as a supporter of English PEN, the founding centre of the international association of writers, to welcome the release of journalists Zeyneb Ceren Kuray and Sadık Topaloğlu.
According to PEN’s information, Zeyneb Kuray and Sadık Topaloğlu were released pending trial following the latest hearing of the alleged KCK ‘press wing’ in Silivri, Turkey on 26 April 2013. The next hearing will take place on 17 June 2013.
Whilst I welcome their releases, I nevertheless remain concerned that they are being penalised for their legitimate coverage of the Kurdish issue. I believe that the charges against them and others involved in the trial are in violation of their rights to non-violent freedom of expression and association, principles to which the Turkish government is committed as a signatory to the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights. I therefore continue to call for the release of all those who remain detained, and for the charges against them to be dropped.
I would welcome your comments on my appeal.