Zarakolu: October 2006

Profession: Owner of the Belge Publishing House.

Through the publication of books deemed subversive by the Turkish authorities over the past three decades, Ragip Zarakolu has stood out as a courageous citizen giving voice to countless victims of injustice whose stories have been silenced, denied, and banned by successive Turkish regimes.

He has been subject to many years of harassment, trials and periods of imprisonment since the 1970s (when he spent 3 years in jail). His publishing house was bombed by right wing extremists in 1995, forcing it underground. His wife also spent several years in prison.

Zarakolu was brought to trial on 15 July 2002 on charges under Article 312 of the Penal Code for an article entitled The New Racist Attacks in Turkey, a critique of ultra-nationalism. The trial opened on 24 September 2003 under Article 312 of the Penal Code for publication of the book The Regime of 12 September on Trial, edited by Dr Gazi Çaglar. He was said to have referred to the activities of the Turkish forces in South Eastern Turkey as “organised genocide”. He was acquitted on 3 December 2003.

On 3 December 2003, further charges were initiated under Article 312 against Zarakolu for an article published in Özgür Politika on 8 March 2003 entitled Of No Interest that criticised Turkey’s policy towards the Kurds in Iraq. The trial opened on 26 May 2004.

Another trial began in May 2005 for his publication of a Turkish translation of a book by Dora Sakayan entitled Experiences of an Armenian Doctor: Garabet Hacheryan’s Izmir Journal. Zarakolu had been charged under Article 159 of the Penal Code for “denigrating Turkishness and the security forces”, and then under Article 301 after the new Turkish Penal Code came into effect.

Furthermore, a case had been opened against him in March, in which Ragip Zarakolu was charged with “denigrating the state and the republic” under Article 159 (also converted to Article 301) and “insulting Ataturk’s memory” under law no. 5816 for publishing a Turkish translation of a book by George Jerjian entitled The Truth Will Set Us Free: Armenians and Turks Reconciled. Hearings continue to this day.

Economic means permitting, Zarakolu hopes to publish the Turkish editions of the Blue Book* from the United Kingdom, Arnim Wegner’s Testimonies, Captanian’s Testimonies of 1915 and a selection of Zabel Yeseyan’s works, as well as a photographic documentation of the Armenian Deportation to the Syrian Desert.

Zarakolu is Honorary Member of English PEN and a recipient of the NOVIB/PEN Free Expression Award 2003.

* The so called Blue Book is the Official Publication of the British Parliament “The Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire 1915-16 – Documents Presented to Viscount Grey of Fallodon by Viscount Bryce”, dated 1916.

“Ragip Zarakolu is an exceptionallly brave man. In his articles and publications from Belge he never flinches from tackling the most taboo subjects. He is one of the fighters for freedom of expression. He is little known in the West, but extremely highly regarded by the handful of human rights activists there that know him. He faces several trials – the judiciary play a cat and mouse game with him, by putting off his trials. He urges us to defend those who are under trial for freedom of expression at a time in Turkey when it is under grave threat, with several magazine premises having been raided and editors detained.” Richard McKane

Richard McKane is Ragip Zarakolu’s minder in the Writers in Prison Committee at English PEN.

Please send appeals:

– Expressing deep concern that trials continue and new charges are still being levied against writers, journalists and publisher in direct denial of their right to freedom of expression;
– Urging that there be an end to these trials and that there be a review of legislation with the aim of removing all remaining laws that allow for the prosecution of those who practice their right to write and publish freely;
– Calling on the Turkish government to do all that it can to abide by its commitments to the protection and promotion of freedom of expression.

Appeals to:

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Office of the Prime Minister
06573 Ankara
Fax: +90 312 417 0476

Foreign Minister and State Minister for Human Rights
Mr Abdullah Gül
Office of the Prime Minister
06573 Ankara
Fax: +90 312 287 8811

Please remember to send a copy of your appeals to

For further information contact

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