Ragip Zarakolu, a publisher and one of Turkey’s best known minority rights and freedom of expression activists, and his son Deniz are currently on trial in Turkey. Their next hearing is due to begin on 1 October 2013.
Author, translator and PhD candidate Deniz Zarakolu was arrested in October 2011. He has now spent almost two years behind bars charged with ‘membership of an illegal organisation’. His father, who was arrested a few days later, is accused of ‘knowingly assisting a terrorist organisation’. He was released pending trial in April 2012, having spent five months in prison.
Ragip Zarakolu’s charges are understood to be linked to a speech he made at an event organised by the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy (BDP) party, and articles published in the newspaper Özgür Gündem (Free Agenda). Deniz Zarakolu is said to be accused for giving a lecture on political philosophy at a BDP meeting. Both men face lengthy sentences if found guilty as charged.
PEN is also campaigning for three other defendants in this hearing: peace activist translator and writer Ayşe Berktay; academic Büşra Ersanlı; and Kurdish language expert and poet Mulazim Özcan. These writers and their co-defendants are among thousands of people believed to be on trial in Turkey as part of the ongoing investigation into the Koma Civakên Kurdistan (Group of Communities in Kurdistan) (KCK) an alleged umbrella organisation for groups with links to the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). A number of other trial hearings are also scheduled to take place in September and October.
PEN believes that the charges against Ragip and Deniz Zarakolu are in violation of their right to freedom of expression and association, as guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the European Convention on Human and Democratic Rights. We are therefore calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Deniz Zarakolu, and for all charges against him and his father, Ragip Zarakolu, to be dropped. Please join us.
Send messages of support
If you would be interested in sending messages of support to Ragip and Deniz Zarakolu please email email@example.com for further details.
Send letters of appeal
- Expressing concern that Ragip and Deniz Zarakolu are among a number of writers on trial in violation of their right to freedom of expression and association, as guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which Turkey has ratified, and the European Convention on Human and Democratic Rights, to which Turkey is a signatory;
- Calling for their immediate and unconditional release.
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=”In support of Ragip and Deniz Zarakolu”]
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 publisher and activist Ragip Zarakolu and his son Deniz Zarakolu, an author, translator and PhD candidate.
According to PEN’s information, Deniz Zarakolu was arrested in October 2011. He has now spent almost two years behind bars charged with ‘membership of an illegal organisation’. His father Ragip Zarakolu, who was arrested a few days later and accused of ‘knowingly assisting a terrorist organisation’, was released pending trial in April 2012 having spent five months in prison. Both men face lengthy sentences if found guilty as charged.
The arrests of Ragip and Deniz Zarakolu 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 translator and founding member of the World Tribunal on Iraq Ayşe Berktay and lawyer, writer and PEN Turkey member Muharrem Erbey, both of whom remain detained pending trial.
I am 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 publisher Ragip Zarakolu to be dropped immediately and unconditionally, and for the immediate release of Deniz Zarakolu. I also call for the immediate release of 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.
Born in 1948, Ragip Zarakolu has fought for social justice in Turkey for decades. He has been in and out of prison and the courts since his first arrest after a military coup in 1971 when he served three years in prison. In 1977 he set up the Belge Publishing House with his wife, the activist and writer, Ayse Nur Zarakolu (deceased). They put Turkish censorship laws to the test by publishing books on minority and human rights, both in Turkey and abroad. For 20 years, between 1971 and 1991, Zarakolu was banned from travelling outside the country. In 2010, he featured as one of 50 emblematic cases of writers representing each year of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee on its 50th anniversary. For more read here.
Commenting on Turkey’s program of human rights reform, Zarakolu writes: ‘It is quite possible to consider Turkey as a “democracy under control”. Turkey is experiencing the problems of transition into a normal democracy since the military coup of September 1981. [Yet] the ‘national security doctrine’ remains a predominant factor in the Turkish regime. … Despite some serious democratization efforts at times, this system defends its stance. … the so called ‘Turkish democratization’ since the 1980s sounds like the national military anthems of the Ottoman era. In other words, whenever it takes two steps forward it is followed by one step back. Some [positive] legislative changes are taking place but these are compensated by some other existing laws. The essential thing here is the change of attitude, not simply the re-styling of laws.’
Deniz Zarakolu, is a PhD student at Bilgi University in Istanbul specialising in political thought. He has written books on Thomas Hobbes and the Turkish justice system and has translated Hobbes’ De Cive. In 2002 he was arrested and charged with ‘inciting revenge or hatred’ for a speech he gave at his mother’s funeral. He was subsequently acquitted.