Turkey Focus 2013: Muharrem Erbey

In December 2009, human rights lawyer, writer and PEN Turkey member Muharrem Erbey was arrested in Diyarbakır, south eastern Turkey. He was finally released pending trial  on 12 April 2014, having spent four and a half years in pre-trial detention

Muharrem Erbey has worked for many years as a highly respected human rights lawyer and advocate in the southeast of Turkey, compiling reports on disappearances and extra-judicial killings in the region, and representing local individuals in provincial, national and international courts, including the European Court of Human Rights. In 2008, Erbey became Vice President of the İnsan Hakları Derneği (IHD), one of Turkey’s most reputable human rights associations, having served as President of the Diyarbakır branch for many years.

In addition to his work as a human rights lawyer and advocate, Erbey is also a published writer, editor and columnist, and has written numerous articles on culture and human rights for a wide range of magazines, newspapers and websites. In 2007, Erbey co-edited a collection of Turkish and Kurdish language stories by 35 authors, which was distributed to local people for free by the Diyarbakır Metropolitan Municipality. Erbey successfully defended the mayor who had organised this publication when he was tried under a law prohibiting use of the Kurdish alphabet, a law which has since been annulled.

He was also instrumental in the publication of short-story collection, Missing Pedigree in 2004. The publication of his latest short-story collection, My Father, Aharon Usta, has reportedly been put on hold since his arrest. He is a member of English PEN’s sister centre, PEN Turkey, and the Kurdish Writers’ Association.

Muharrem Erbey was among 80 people across the region to be arrested in connection with the Koma Civakên Kurdistan (KCK) (Union of Communities in Kurdistan), the alleged political front for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). According to reports, members of the Anti-Terror Unit of the Diyarbakır Security Directorate took Erbey from his home in the early hours of 24 December 2009. At the time of his arrest, the offices of the IHD were searched and documentation, including archives detailing serious human rights violations that have taken place over the past two decades, was seized.

In a letter to PEN to mark the Day of the Imprisoned Writer (15 November 2012) Erbey explained his detention thus:

I have been incarcerated for the last three years… because of the speeches I have made on human rights and the peaceful resolution of the Kurdish issue at parliaments in Britain, Sweden, Belgium and at the UN in Geneva. My speeches and comments never contained words of violence.

The indictment against Erbey accuses him of attempting to humiliate the Turkish state in speeches given in the Swedish, Belgian and UK Parliaments; of financing KCK with money from a grant obtained in IHD’s name from an EU Member State; of being involved in the drafting of a constitution by the PKK-linked Democratic Community Congress (KCD); of being Diyarbakir Mayor Osman Baydemir’s lawyer, and meeting with him frequently; of following a number of anti-terror trials voluntarily; of making statements to Kurdish-language satellite channel Roj TV (alleged to be the ‘PKK’s mouthpiece; of participating in various demonstrations via his press releases; of attempting to humiliate Turkish security forces; of providing KCK with morale and motivation; and of taking part in various activities in order to incite public disorder.

PEN warmly welcomes the news of his release and thanks all our members for their support and for tirelessly campaigning for Muharrem Erbey in recent years.

However, we also continue to call on Turkish authorities to immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against Muharrem Erbey and to fully meet its obligations to protect the right to freedom of expression as laid out in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, to which it is a state party.

Further information

  • Human rights lawyer and activist Muharrem Erbey pens letter to mark two and a half years behind bars‏ (June 2012)
  • Letter from Muharrem Erbey, written from prison (November 2012)

English PEN actions for Muharrem Erbey

  • PEN marks the Day of the Imprisoned Writer (15 November 2012)
  • PEN calls for releases and reform of laws stifling Turkey’s writers, publishers, translators, and journalists (15 November 2012)
  • Turkey: Cards provide encouragement and support to imprisoned writers (4 January 2012)
  • Turkey: Writer and lawyer Muharrem Erbey detained (12 January 2010)

TAKE ACTION

Send letters of appeal

  • Welcoming the release pending trial of writer and lawyer Muharrem Erbey;
  • Calling for all charges against him to be dropped;
  • Referring to concerns that Muharrem Erbey is being prosecuted on charges that contravene his right to freedom of expression and association, 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.

Appeals to

Mr Bekir Bozdağ
Minister of Justice
06669 Kizilay
Ankara
Turkey
Fax: 00 90 312 419 3370Email: info@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=”Drop all charges against Muharrem Erbey”]

Your Excellency

I am writing to you as a supporter of English PEN, the founding centre of the international association of writers, to welcome the long-overdue release of our colleague Muharrem Erbey.

According to PEN’s information, writer, human rights lawyer, and PEN Turkey member Muharrem Erbey was arrested in Diyarbakır, south eastern Turkey in December 2009. He was finally released pending trial  on 12 April 2014, having spent four and a half years in pre-trial detention.

Muharrem Erbey has worked for many years as a highly respected human rights lawyer and advocate in the southeast of Turkey, compiling reports on disappearances and extra-judicial killings in the region, and representing local individuals in provincial, national and international courts, including the European Court of Human Rights. In 2008, Erbey became Vice President of the İnsan Hakları Derneği (IHD), one of Turkey’s most reputable human rights associations, having served as President of the Diyarbakır branch for many years.

In addition to his work as a human rights lawyer and advocate, Erbey is also a published writer, editor and columnist, and has written numerous articles on culture and human rights for a wide range of magazines, newspapers and websites. He is a member of English PEN’s sister centre, PEN Turkey, and the Kurdish Writers’ Association.

Whilst I warmly welcome his release pending trial, I also continue to call on Turkish authorities to immediately and unconditionally drop all charges against Muharrem Erbey and to fully meet its obligations to protect the right to freedom of expression as laid out in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, to which it is a state party.

I would welcome your comments on my appeal.

Yours sincerely

[/ecampaign]

About Cat Lucas

Cat Lucas is English PEN's Writers at Risk Programme Manager

View all posts by Cat Lucas →

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