Turkey Focus 2013: Zeyneb Ceren Kuray

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Zeyneb Ceren Kuray is an investigative journalist who worked as a columnist for left-wing daily BirGun and as a correspondent for Fırat News Agency prior to her arrest. She is known for tackling controversial issues, including the conflict between the PKK and the Turkish army, the prosecution of journalists critical of the Gülen movement, political corruption and poor industrial working conditions.

Arrested in December 2011, Zeyneb Kuray is one of the 44 journalists dubbed the KCK ‘press wing’ currently on trial in Turkey. She is 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 shows 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.

During her initial hearing on 12 September 2012, Kuray and her co-defendants asked to be able to defend themselves in Kurdish, a request that was rejected by the court. Shortly afterwards, detained KCK suspects announced a hunger strike; amongst their stated demands were the right to defend oneself in one’s mother tongue, native language education, and improved conditions for imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan. Zeyneb Kuray was one of over 700 participants in the 68-day hunger strike, which ended on 18 November 2012 and is seen to have been instrumental in the passing of a new law which allows Kurdish defendants to speak their mother tongue in court. At the following hearing, which began on Monday 22 April 2013, Kuray and her co-defendants were allowed to defend themselves in Kurdish for the first time.

Ahead of the hearing in April 2013, 26 of the journalists on trial, including Zeyneb Kuray, remained detained in prison facilities in Istanbul. On 26 April, the court ruled that just two of those journalists – Zeyneb Kuray and Sadık Topaloğlu – would be released pending trial. On learning of this development 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 next hearing is now scheduled to take place on 25 September 2013.

Please continue to show your support for Zeyneb Kuray and her co-defendants by sending letters of appeal to the authorities ahead of their next hearing on 25 September 2013.

Further information

Reports following Zeyneb Kuray’s arrest also made reference to a prospective Article 301 investigation. Found in the raid of her home was an unpublished translation by her step father, Ali Berktay, of Jean-François Solnon’s 2009 book, The turban and the stambouline: The Ottoman Empire and Europe, XVI-XXth Centuries, reciprocal confrontation and fascination. Turkish daily newspaper Radikal reported that an excerpt from the translation – a chapter titled, “Worse than dogs or good people?” – had been added to the case file against Kuray.

Background

The trial of Zeyneb Kuray 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.

PEN is particularly concerned about the arrest and trial of the alleged KCK ‘press wing’: 44 journalists, all of whom work for left-wing or pro-Kurdish news organisations and whom we believe may be being penalised for their legitimate coverage of the Kurdish issue. PEN is closely monitoring their situation to see whether recent efforts by the Turkish government to reduce the impact of anti-terror legislation on freedom of expression have been effective.

TAKE ACTION

Send letters of appeal

  • Expressing concern that the charges against journalist Zeyneb Ceren Kuray 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.  

 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 Zeyneb Ceren Kuray”]

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 release of journalist Zeyneb Ceren Kuray. 

According to PEN’s information, Zeyneb Kuray was one of two journalists to be released pending trial following the hearing of the alleged KCK ‘press wing’ in Silivri, Turkey on 26 April 2013. The next hearing is now scheduled to take place on 25 September 2013.

Whilst I welcome Kuray’s release, I nevertheless remain concerned that she is being penalised for her legitimate coverage of the Kurdish issue. I believe that the charges against her 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.

Yours sincerely

[/ecampaign]

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