Turkey Focus 2013: Büşra Ersanlı

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Take action for Professor Büşra Ersanlı, currently on trial in Turkey.

Professor Büşra Ersanlı is a Turkish academic and political scientist specialising in nationalism, historiography, political theory, and Kurdish political participation, politics and language rights.

In October 2011, Ersanlı was arrested alongside publisher Ragip Zarakolu, one of Turkey’s most prominent freedom of expression activists and a leading member of PEN Turkey. Their arrests were part of a larger crackdown on pro-Kurdish politicians, lawyers, journalists and intellectuals known as the KCK operation, which has been underway since 2009 and has led to thousands of arrests and trials. 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.

Following her arrest, Büşra Ersanlı was detained for five months before being formally charged with ‘leading an illegal organisation’ under Article 314* of the Turkish Penal Code and ‘making propaganda for an illegal organisation’ under Article 7/2** of the Anti-Terror Law on 19 March 2012. The Istanbul Public Prosecutor who issued the indictment demanded that she serve between 15 and 22 ½ years in prison.

Ersanlı’s detention was met with widespread condemnation in Turkey. A prominent academic who had spoken out against the measures taken to disenfranchise Islamic conservatives in the wake of the 28 February 1997 ‘postmodern coup’, she was a widely respected, non-partisan advocate for democratisation in Turkey. Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu was among those to question her involvement in the KCK investigation when, during a press conference in Paris on 9 July 2012, he stated:

Ms. Büşra is an academic who took a very democratic position on 28 February [1997]. I do not believe she is a terrorist. However, my objection to this situation as a minister does not give me the right to intervene in [her] trial.

Just days later, on 13 July 2012, following the first KCK hearing in a court in Silivri prison, Ersanlı was released pending trial alongside 15 other defendants. On learning that she was to be freed, Ersanlı commented:

From the day that the prosecutor ruled to detain me, until now, everything has been upside down. I am speechless and I am now going back to Silivri [prison] to pack my bag…

While welcoming Büşra Ersanlı’s release pending trial, we remain deeply concerned that writers, academics and journalists charged in this case are being tried in violation of their rights to non-violent freedom of expression and association. These are 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 continuing to call for all charges against Büşra Ersanlı to be dropped immediately and unconditionally, and for the release of all those detained in violation of the right to free expression in Turkey. Please join us.

Further information

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. In addition to Büşra Ersanlı and Ragip Zarakolu, we are particularly concerned for Ragip Zarakolu’s son, author, translator and PhD candidate Deniz Zarakolu; translator and founding member of the World Tribunal on Iraq Ayşe Berktay; and lawyer, writer and PEN Turkey member Muharrem Erbey, all of whom remain detained pending trial.

TAKE ACTION

Send letters of appeal

  • Welcoming the release pending trial of Büşra Ersanlı, but expressing regret that she was not freed unconditionally;
  • Raising concerns that writers and journalists are being tried because of their alleged affiliation with Kurdish political parties;
  • Referring to concerns that the charges against them 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.

Appeals to

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

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

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 ‘to=embassy.london@mfa.gov.tr‘ subject=”In support of Professor Büşra Ersanlı”]

Your Excellency

I am writing to you as a supporter of English PEN, the founding centre of the international association of writers, to protest the charges against political scientist and university professor Büşra Ersanlı and other writers currently on trial in Turkey.

In October 2011, Büşra Ersanlı was arrested alongside publisher Ragip Zarakolu, one of Turkey’s most prominent freedom of expression activists and a leading member of PEN Turkey. Their arrests were part of a larger crackdown known as the KCK operation, which has been underway since 2009 and has led to thousands of arrests and trials. 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. Cases of particular concern to PEN include author, translator and PhD candidate Deniz Zarakolu; translator and founding member of the World Tribunal on Iraq Ayşe Berktay; and lawyer, writer and PEN Turkey member Muharrem Erbey, all of whom remain detained pending trial.

Following her arrest Büşra Ersanlı was detained for five months before being formally charged with ‘leading an illegal organisation’ under Article 314 of the Turkish Penal Code and ‘making propaganda for an illegal organisation’ under Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Law on 19 March 2012. The Istanbul Public Prosecutor who issued the indictment demanded that she serve between 15 and 22 ½ years in prison. Nevertheless, on 13 July 2012, following the first KCK hearing in a court in Silivri prison, Ersanlı was released pending trial alongside 15 other defendants.

While welcoming Büşra Ersanlı’s release pending trial, I remain deeply concerned that writers, academics and journalists charged in this case are being tried in violation of their rights to non-violent freedom of expression and association. These are 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 am therefore calling for all charges against Büşra Ersanlı and publisher Ragip Zarakolu to be dropped immediately and unconditionally, and for the immediate release of Deniz Zarakolu, Ayşe Berktay and Muharrem Erbey and the many other writers currently detained in Turkey in violation of their rights to free expression.

I would welcome your comments on my appeal.

Yours sincerely

[/ecampaign]

English PEN actions for Büşra Ersanlı

 

* Article 314 of the Turkish Penal Code – Armed Organisations

Article 314 is the most popular provision for prosecutors drawing up charges for writers and journalists; it was used in a jaw-dropping 92 out of 129 cases of concern in the PEN International January-June 2013 case list. The most striking feature of Article 314, aside from its brevity, is the length of the sentences it imposes. This is because Article 314 categorises everyone allegedly involved in an armed organisation in the same way. Büşra Ersanlı, as an alleged KCK leader, faces the same range of sentence in the context of this Article as a machinegun wielding warlord. Ayşe Berktay, as an alleged KCK member, faces the same range of sentence as an Armalite-carrying PKK foot soldier. Taking into consideration the aggravated sentencing under the Anti-Terror Law that is automatically activated once charges are brought under Article 314, Büşra faces 22.5 years in prison and Ayşe faces 15. These are staggering numbers for a pair of peaceful, Istanbul-based academics who have no hint of a relationship with arms of any kind.

Reform is desperately needed to address this issue, yet Article 314 escaped any attention during the last two judicial reform packages. As long as this issue is not addressed, it is still possible for individuals with absolutely no material links to violence from facing enormous terms in prison.

ARTICLE 314-(1) Any person(s) who forms or leads an armed organisation to commit the offences listed in the fourth and fifth sections of this chapter [Articles 197-222] is to be punished with imprisonment from ten years to fifteen years.

(2) Those who are members of the organisation defined in the first subsection are sentenced to imprisonment from five years to ten years.

(3) Other provisions relating to offences committed by forming illegal organisations [in Article 220] are applied in the same way to this offence.

** Article 7 of the Anti-Terror Law – Foundation, Leadership or Membership of a Terrorist Organisation/Terrorist Propaganda

(1) Those individuals who, by way of violence or coercion, and using methods of pressure, intimidation, terror and oppression, found, lead or are members of terrorist organisations that exist to commit offences in pursuit of the objectives set out in Article 1, shall be punished according to the provisions set out in Article 314 of the Turkish Penal Code. Those who organise the organisation’s activities are punished as organisation leaders.

(2) A person who makes propaganda that legitimises or praises – or incites [others] to resort to – a terrorist organisation’s coercive, violent or threatening practices, shall be punished with imprisonment from one to five years. If such a crime is committed via press or broadcast, the length of imprisonment will be increased by a half. Furthermore, a fine of one thousand to five thousand days’ will be imposed on those employees responsible for preventing their press or broadcast organisations from facilitating such a crime. The below acts shall also be punished according to the provisions set out in this article:

a)      Where, in meetings or demonstrations that have been turned into propaganda for a terrorist organisation, the face is completely or partially covered in order to conceal identity.

b)      Where, even if it doesn’t take place in the course of meetings or demonstrations, the below things are done in a manner that makes evident membership or support of a terrorist organisation:

  1. The hanging or carrying of emblems, pictures or symbols belonging to a terrorist organisation,
  2. The chanting of slogans,
  3. Broadcasting via audio devices,
  4. Wearing a uniform on which emblems, pictures or symbols belonging to a terrorist organisation are found

(3) In the event that the offences defined in subsection two are committed in buildings, club houses, offices or annexes belonging to associations, charities, political parties, trade unions or guilds; or in educational establishments; or in students’ accommodation or their annexes, the punishment imposed according to this subsection is to be doubled.

(4) Those who commit the following offences while not being a member of a terrorist organisation cannot be additionally charged with Article 220 Subsection 6 of the Turkish Penal Code:

a)      The offence defined in Subsection 2

b)      The offence defined in Article 6 Subsection 2

c)       The offence of taking part in illegal meetings or demonstrations set out in Article 28 Subsection 1 of the Law on Meetings and Demonstrations (Law 2911)

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