Turkey: PEN questions decision to re-open trial against Pinar Selek

English PEN is concerned by the extraordinary trial against writer, anthropologist and activist Pinar Selek, which was recently re-opened despite having been dismissed twice before for lack of evidence.
In 1998, an explosion at a crowded marketplace in Istanbul led to the deaths of seven people and injured 127 others. Selek was among a number of people arrested and imprisoned in July 1998 on accusation of causing the explosion. In December 2001 an expert investigation concluded that there was not enough information to confirm that the explosion was a bomb, the suggestion being that it had been a tragic accident caused by a leak from a gas canister. Selek and the other defendants were freed after serving two and a half years in prison.
However, in December 2005 a new trial was opened, which in June 2006 was again dismissed due to lack of evidence that the explosion was a bomb. That the trial should once again be opened despite these two previous dismissals has led to outcry in Turkey.
Pinar Selek is a noted anthropologist and activist for minority rights. In the mid-1990s she carried out research into Kurdish issues, travelling to France and Romania to interview members of the Kurdish communities there. The government accused her of meeting with members of the banned Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) while abroad and of having been recruited as a member. Selek’s supporters say that there is no evidence that she has carried out terrorism, and that the conclusions that the 1998 market explosion was not a terrorist act adds to the perception that she is being victimised for her outspoken support for minority, specifically Kurdish, rights.
Pinar Selek, who is now living in Germany, is likely to be tried in absentia. A trial date is yet to be set.
International PEN’s Writers in Prison Committee joins PEN Turkey and other Turkish NGOs in protesting the re-opening of the trial against Pinar Selek. The International Chair has sent the following letter to Turkey’s Minister of Justice, Mehmet Ali Sahin, today (5 May 2009):

Your Excellency,


International PEN, the world association of writers, representing over 13,000 members in 104 countries. As International Chair of its Writers in Prison Committee, I respectfully write to Your Excellency to express puzzlement and concern at the decision to bring academic and wrier, Pinar Selek to court on charges that have been dismissed as unfounded on two previous occasions. PEN is seriously concerned that Selek is being subjected to a campaign of judicial harassment as a means of penalising her for her long standing support for minority groups in Turkey, and thus is in contravention of her right to freedom of expression, a principle to which the Turkish government has on numerous occasions expressed its commitment.


As you may know, Pinar Selek, a writer and academic, was accused of involvement in an explosion at an Istanbul market in 1998, a tragedy that led to the deaths of seven people and injuries to 127 others. She was arrested in July 1998 then freed two and a half years later after a team of experts concluded that the explosion was not the result of a bomb, but by the accidental ignition of a gas cylinder. Despite these findings, the case against Selek and her co-defendants continued and in December 2005 a new trial was opened against her. This trial ended with her acquittal six months later in June 2006.


That the case should be reopened once again, following a ruling from the High Criminal Court No 12 under Article 125 of the Penal Code, under which she faces a maximum 36 year sentence, is cause for deep concern. Commentators believe that Selek’s conviction is linked to her work as a sociologist researching Kurdish issues in the mid to late 1990s, and contact with the banned Turkish Workers Party (PKK). According to our sources, no evidence has been presented that shows Pelek to have been a member of the PKK or to have engaged in violent activities. It is widely believed that she is being pursued through the courts as a means of penalising her for her legitimate research and commentary into this sensitive area. These concerns are intensified by the allegations that Selek, during her imprisonment in 1998-2000, suffered torture under investigation in an attempt to make her confess to the charges.


I respectfully address Your Excellency in the hope that your office will take particular note of our concerns and that the case against Pinar Selek will be discontinued.


Any comments that Your Excellency’s office may have on International PEN’s concerns would be warmly welcomed.


Yours sincerely,


Dr. Karin Clark

International Chair
Writers in Prison Committee
International PEN


Members of English PEN may decide to send their own appeals to the Ministry of Justice expressing their concerns about this trial.

Mehmet Ali Sahin
Minister of Justice
Adalet Bakanligi,
06659 Ankara,
Fax: 00 90 312 419 3370

You may also wish to send copies of your appeals to the Turkish Embassy in the UK, asking for their comments on your appeal:

His Excellency Mehmet Yiğit Alpogan
43 Belgrave Square
London SW1X 8PA
Fax: (020) 7393 0066

Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/writersinprison/bulletins/turkeypenquestionsdecisiontore-opentrialagainstpinarselek/

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