[Turkey] One writer released; two others face at least three more months in prison

As demonstrations in Istanbul and other cities in Turkey continue, several trials against writers and journalists are still ongoing, some of which opened nearly four years ago.

In one of the most recent court hearings, five writers of concern to PEN – Ayşe Berktay, Deniz Zarakolu, Ragip Zarakolu, Mulazim Ozcan and Büşra Ersanlı – were among 200 defendants in a mass trial of people accused of involvement in the Union of Communities in Kurdistan (KCK).

Whilst we warmly welcome the release pending trial of Kurdish poet Mulazim Ozcan following the conclusion of the most recent hearing on 7 June 2013, we are nevertheless disappointed that the trial against all five continues. Of particular concern is the fact that two of the writers, Ayşe Berktay and Deniz Zarakolu, will remain in prison for at least three more months ahead of their next hearing, which is set to open on 7 September 2013.

The five PEN Honorary Members are:

Ayşe Berktay: academic, author, translator and founding member of the World Tribunal on Iraq. Arrested on 3 October 2011 she remains in prison. She is accused of ‘membership of an illegal organisation’ for allegedly ‘planning to stage demonstrations aimed at destabilising the state’. She could face up to 15 years in prison if found guilty.
Deniz Zarakolu: author, translator and PhD candidate, was arrested in October 2011 and has also been detained ever since. Charged with “membership of an illegal organisation” for giving lectures on political philosophy for the BDP, Zarakolu faces up to 12 years in prison.
Mulazim Ozcan: Kurdish poet, linguist and consultant at Ragip Zarakolu’s publishing house, he was arrested in October 2011 and released on 7 June 2013 pending trial. It is believed that his charges are linked to a lecture he gave on the Kurdish language to the BDP.
Ragip Zarakolu: publisher who is one of Turkey’s most prominent free expression activists and father of Deniz Zarakolu, above. Arrested in October 2011, he was released in April 2012 pending trial and faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted as charged for ‘aiding and abetting an illegal organisation’. He is accused of making speeches for the BDP and writing for a pro-Kurdish newspaper.
Professor Büşra Ersanlı: respected academic and political scientist, also arrested in October 2011, and freed pending trial in July 2012. She could receive a sentence of up to 22 ½ years if convicted on charges of ‘leading an illegal organisation’. An elected member of the BDP’s Party Assembly, at the time of her arrest she was advising the BDP on constitutional reform.

PEN firmly believes that the charges against Ayşe Berktay, Deniz Zarakolu, Ragip Zarakolu,  Mulazim Ozcan and Büşra Ersanlı are in violation of their right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which Turkey has ratified. We are therefore calling for the release of Ayşe Berktay and Deniz Zarakolu, and for all charges against them and their co-defendants to be dropped immediately and unconditionally.

For more information, please visit the PEN International website.

TAKE ACTION

Send letters of appeal

  • Calling for the immediate release of Ayşe Berktay and Deniz Zarakolu and the numerous other writers and journalists currently detained in Turkey because of their legitimate practice of their right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Turkey is a state party;
  • Stating that the charges against the defendants 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 Rights;
  • Requesting that the charges in this case against those who have been released pending trial – Ragip Zarakolu, Mulazim Ozcan and Büşra Ersanlı – be dropped immediately and unconditionally.

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=”Freedom for Turkey’s imprisoned writers”]

Your Excellency

I am writing to you as a supporter of English PEN, the founding centre of the international association of writers, to call for the immediate and unconditional release of our detained colleagues in Turkey.

As demonstrations in Istanbul and other cities in Turkey continue, several trials against writers and journalists are still ongoing, some of which opened nearly four years ago. In one of the most recent court hearings, five writers of concern to PEN – Ayşe Berktay, Deniz Zarakolu, Ragip Zarakolu, Mulazim Ozcan and Büşra Ersanlı – were among 200 defendants in a mass trial of people accused of involvement in the Union of Communities in Kurdistan (KCK).

Whilst I warmly welcome the release pending trial of Kurdish poet Mulazim Ozcan following the conclusion of the most recent hearing on 7 June 2013, I am nevertheless disappointed that the trial against all five continues. Of particular concern is the fact that two of the writers, Ayşe Berktay and Deniz Zarakolu, will remain in prison for at least three more months ahead of their next hearing, which is set to open on 7 September 2013.

I believe that the charges against Ayşe Berktay, Deniz Zarakolu, Ragip Zarakolu, Mulazim Ozcan and Büşra Ersanlı are in violation of their right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the European Convention on Human and Democratic Rights, to which Turkey is a signatory. I am therefore calling for the immediate release of Ayşe Berktay and Deniz Zarakolu, and for the charges against Ragip Zarakolu, Büşra Ersanlı and Mulazim Ozcan to be dropped immediately and unconditionally.

I would welcome your comments on my appeal.

[/ecampaign]

About Cat Lucas

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

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