Leading writers and PEN members including Hari Kunzru, Roberto Saviano, Ali Smith, Sarah Waters and Irvine Welsh are among the hundreds of people to have added their voices to a petition calling for the release of renowned investigative journalist Ahmet Şık.
Following his detention on 29 December 2016, Ahmet Şık was charged and arrested and is now being held in pre-trial detention. Şık is accused of making terrorist propaganda for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Gülen movement (FETÖ), which the government has blamed for the failed coup attempt in July 2016. He has also been charged under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code for ‘publicly denigrating the Republic of Turkey, its judiciary, military and security forces’.
Fellow investigative journalists Khadija Ismayilova, Lydia Cacho, Sandra Rodriguez Nieto, and Jerome Starkey – themselves no strangers to being persecuted for their work – are also among those to have added their support. Ismayilova, who knows Şık personally, described him as ‘one of the brightest minds in Turkey’. Other key supporters include Adonis, Hanan Al Shaykh, Monica Ali, Margaret Atwood, Julian Barnes, JM Coetzee, Ariel Dorfman, Victoria Glendinning, Arthur Golden, Sir David Hare, Josef Haslinger, Elfriede Jelinek, AL Kennedy, Ian McEwan, Andrew Motion, Neel Mukherjee, Chigozie Obioma, Ihor Pavlyuk, Philippe Sands, Elif Shafak, Andrew Solomon (PEN America), George Szirtes, Mario Vargas Llosa and Ai Weiwei.
The petition urges the Turkish authorities to release Şık, whom signatories believe to be held on politically motivated charges, immediately and unconditionally and calls for him to be granted full access to his lawyers and his family.
Describing how Şık was ‘initially held in solitary confinement in filthy conditions in Metris Prison…and reportedly denied access to clean drinking water for three days’, supporters are also calling on the authorities to ensure that he is not subject to any ill-treatment while he remains in detention.
The petition continues:
The detention of award-winning investigative journalist Ahmet Şık once again highlights the growing post-coup crackdown in Turkey.
In March 2016, Ahmet Şık launched his report Journalism Under Siege (published by English PEN, Free Word and ARTICLE 19, in partnership with the Committee to Protect Journalists), detailing the ‘unprecedented crisis’ facing Turkey’s independent media. Since then, and particularly in the wake of the attempted coup, the situation for writers and journalists has deteriorated even further. In the report, Şık named 39 imprisoned journalists: that number more than tripled over the course of 2016 and, at the time of writing, over 150 journalists and writers are now detained in Turkey, including Şık himself.
While recognising the right of the Turkish authorities to bring those responsible for crimes committed during the attempted coup to justice, we call on the Turkish authorities to safeguard freedom of expression, human rights and respect their obligations under international law during the declared state of emergency, and to release Ahmet Şık and all journalists and writers held solely in connection with their peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression.
Please take a moment to share the petition with friends and colleagues and on social media – #FreeAhmetŞık