[Turkey] Petition to free writer, translator and activist Ayşe Berktay

Our colleagues at PEN International, the Initiative for Free Expression in Turkey, PEN American Center and the International Freedom of Expression Exchange have launched a petition for the release of Ayşe Berktay – a writer, translator and activist detained in Turkey since October 2011.

On 30 April, prominent translator and cultural and women’s rights activist Ayşe Berktay won PEN America’s  2013 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award. But she was not there in New York to accept the award. Instead, she is currently in jail in Turkey, awaiting the next hearing of her trial on 27 May. She could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted. 

Police arrested Berktay on 3 October 2011, and she was eventually charged under the Anti-Terror Law with ‘membership of an illegal organisation’ for allegedly ‘planning to stage demonstrations aimed at destabilising the state, plotting to encourage women to throw themselves under police vehicles so as to create a furor, and attending meetings outside Turkey on behalf of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK),’ a banned pro-Kurdish party. 

Anti-terrorism legislation has long been used by the authorities to justify the jailing of writers, publishers, journalists, academics, and politicians in Turkey. In November 2012, a PEN International delegation visited Ankara to express concern about the alarming rise in prosecutions of writers and journalists in the last two years, noting that more than 70 writers and journalists are currently in prison, and at least 60 other writers, publishers, and journalists are on trial. 

Please sign the petition calling on the Minister of Justice to free Berktay and all those jailed in violation of their right to free expression now.

You may also consider sending appeals by post or email:

  • Protesting the continued detention of  Ayşe Berktay who is charged only for having been involved in legitimate, non-violent activism;
  • Pointing out that she has been held for over 18 months in pre-trial detention and that the practice of holding political prisoners for lengthy periods without conviction has been criticised both within Turkey and outside;
  • Urging that Ayşe Berktay be freed pending the speedy conclusion of her trial;
  • Asking that it be recognised that the case against her is in breach of her right to freedom of expression and association and calling for acquittal;
  • Referring also to the fact that scores of other writers, journalists and activists are detained and on trial on charges that similarly breach their right to peaceful freedom of expression and association, and these cases should also be discontinued.

Send 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 Ayşe Berktay”]

Your Excellency,

I am writing to protest the continued imprisonment of journalists, writers and academics in Turkey, including prominent translator and cultural and women’s rights activist Ayşe Berktay, winner of the 2013 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award. I believe that she is just one of many who have been persecuted for exercising their right to freedom of expression.

According to PEN’s information, police arrested Berktay and raided her home on 3 October 2011, seizing personal papers and materials, though no arrest or search warrant had been issued. She was eventually charged under the Anti Terror Law with ‘membership of an illegal organisation’ for allegedly ‘planning to stage demonstrations aimed at destabilising the state, plotting to encourage women to throw themselves under police vehicles so as to create a furor, and attending meetings outside Turkey on behalf of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK),’ a banned pro-Kurdish party. The indictment specifically refers to international conferences she attended, where she is accused of having served as the organisation’s ‘international advocate.’

Berktay is a member of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), a legal political party with 36 elected representatives in Turkey’s Parliament. Berktay is currently being held in Bakirköy Women’s Prison in Istanbul. Her trial is ongoing and she could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

Anti-terrorism legislation has long been used by the authorities to justify the jailing of writers, publishers, journalists, academics, and politicians in Turkey. In November 2012, a PEN International delegation visited Ankara to express concern about the alarming rise in prosecutions of writers and journalists in the last two years, noting that more than 70 writers and journalists are currently in prison, and at least 60 other writers, publishers, and journalists are on trial – ensnared in legal processes that can last years.

Dozens of people associated with the KCK, including journalists Ferhat Arslan, Zeyneb Kuray and Sadık Topaloğlu, were recently released from prison pending trial. I ask that Ayşe Berktay be freed as well, along with others who have been imprisoned for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression, as guaranteed under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention on Human and Democratic Rights, to which Turkey is a signatory. I therefore call for Berktay’s immediate and unconditional release, and for charges against those who exercise their right to free expression to be withdrawn.

Thank you for your consideration in this urgent matter.

Yours sincerely

[/ecampaign]

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2 Comments on “[Turkey] Petition to free writer, translator and activist Ayşe Berktay”

  1. I want freedom for her and all writers in prison in Turkey (Kurds, Turks, Armenians or belong to any people that inhabited this territory).

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