3 November 2011

To Mr Sadullah Ergin, Minister of Justice

3 november 2011

Öppet brev till Turkiets justitieminister

Den turkiske förläggaren Ragıp Zarakolu, mottagare av Internationella Förläggareföreningens Freedom to Publish-pris, har fängslats anklagad för att vara medlem i en illegal organisation. Med anledning av gripandet har Svenska PEN tillsammans med Internationella PEN och Sveriges Författarförbund skrivit ett öppet brev till Turkiets justitieminister. Nedan publiceras brevet i sin helhet.

The Swedish PEN, the International PEN and the Swedish Writers Association are highly concerned over reports that writer, academic and translator Deniz Zarakolu was arrested on 7 October 2011 under anti-terror legislation. Although no charges have been formally declared, it is believed that he is being held as the result of his peaceful exercise of the right to free expression. We condemn the arrest without charge of Mr Zarakolu and call on the Turkish authorities to secure his immediate release.

Deniz Zarakolu was arrested on 7 October 2011. It is believed that he was arrested under anti-terror legislation after giving a lecture at the Political Science Academy of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy (BDP) opposition party. Such party-affiliated research academies are common in Turkey, with similar institutes run by the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Justice and Development Party (AKP). The exact accusation against Zarakolu is unknown and it has been alleged that his lawyer has been denied access to documents concerning the arrest

Zarakolu, a PhD student specialising in political thought at Bilgi University in Istanbul, has written a books on Thomas Hobbes and the Turkish justice system, as well as translating Hobbes’ De Cive. He had previously been arrested and charged with “inciting revenge or hatred” over a speech he gave in 2002 at the funeral of his mother Ayşe Nur Zarakolu, a founding member of the Belge International Publishing House, although he was later acquitted.

Professor Büşra Ersanlı and Ragip Zarakolu (Deniz’s father), were arrested on 28 October 2011. Ragip Zarakolu, a member of PEN Turkey and honorary member of Swedish PEN Centre, is a well known political activist who has been fighting for freedom of expression in Turkey for over 30 years, publishing books on issues such as minority and human rights. As one of the 50 writers chosen to represent the struggle for freedom of expression since 1960 for the Writers in Prison Committee's 50th Anniversary Campaign – Because Writers Speak Their Minds – Ragip Zarakolu's case is emblematic of the ongoing struggles many writers, publishers and freedom of expression and human rights activists in Turkey continue to face.

It has also been alleged that several other scholars linked to the BDP Political Science Academy have also been arrested under anti-terror legislation, including Aziz Tunç, Ayes Berktay and A. Dursun Yildiz. Forty one people had also been arrested around the same time under what is known as the Democratic Society Congress (Koma Civaken Kurdistan – KCK) operation that has been under way since 2009 leading to several hundred, some say over 1,000, arrests and trials. The KCK is seen as its civil/political wing front for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), and thus also illegal.

We condemn the arrest of writer and academic Professor Büşra Ersanlı, Deniz Zarakolu, and Ragip Zarakolu on charges that appear to be related to his peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression.

We call for a full, impartial investigation into the arrests of other academics arrested under anti-terror legislation, including Aziz Tunç, Ayes Berktay and A. Dursun Yildiz.

We call on the Turkish authorities to live up to their commitments to protect freedom of expression under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Ola Larsmo
Swedish PEN  

Eugene Schoulgin
PEN International

Mats Söderlund
Swedish Writers Association