September 2013 – PEN Centres are being asked to take action for writers due to face hearings in September 2013. This paper provides an outline of the trials and suggestions for action.


PEN Centres are asked to take part in some of the activities below during September 2013. The suggested activities can be carried out by both large and small Centres. You should select activities that suit your capacity and resources. Please keep us informed of any actions you take in regard to these cases, including any responses from the Turkish authorities.  Please let us know of any activities you take. Email: ann.harrison@pen-international.org

TRIAL DATES : 9 – 20 September

KCK Academies Hearing : PEN Cases: Busra Ersanli, Deniz and Ragip Zarakolu, Ayse Berktay and Mulazim Ozcan, Silivri, Istanbul

16 September  – KCK  Diyabakir – PEN Case: Muharrem Erbey Diyabakir

25 to 27 September – KCK Press Wing – Includes PEN case:  Zeyneb Kuray Silivri, Istanbul

Actions around the PEN International Congress

As PEN International’s 79th World Congress in Reykjavik, Iceland will coincide with the opening of the KCK hearings in Turkey, PEN International is planning two actions involving the Assembly of Delegates which we hope all Centres attending the congress will support. The action will focus on Ayse Berktay. Delegates will be asked to agree to be photographed holding a banner stating “Free Ayse Berktay” in several languages including Turkish, Kurdish and Icelandic. The photos will uploaded onto the web.

A resolution on Turkey will be presented to the Assembly of Delegates for approval during the congress. We are hoping that it will be possible to deliver a copy of the resolution to the Turkish consulate in Iceland, along with some of the photos taken in the action above.

Copies of the resolution should be sent by Centres to Turkish embassies in their own countries on their return and could also be an opportunity for Centres to request a meeting with the ambassador to discuss the issues raised in the resolution face to face. Advice on this action will follow.Whether or not your Centre will be attending the congress, we’d be enormously grateful if you and your members would consider taking one or more of the actions suggested below.

Letters of appeal

Letters of appeal should be sent while the September trial hearings are under way between 9 and 27 September. An update on those trial outcomes will be issued with guidance for action on further hearings.

Send letters of appeal to the Turkish authorities urging that they:

·   Undertake an immediate review of all cases of writers, publishers and journalists to ensure that none is being penalized for the legitimate practice of his or her right to peaceful freedom of expression and association. 

· Release all those currently detained, imprisoned or facing prosecution solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression.

·  Reform the Anti-Terror Law to protect freedom of expression, especially Articles 6 and 7, which are often misused to prosecute writers, publishers and journalists. The Act remains the most serious threat to freedom of expression in Turkey.

· Revise the Penal Code Articles that have been used to launch court cases over legitimate political comment or speech.

Appeals to – Mr Sadullah Ergin – Minister of Justice – 06669 Kizilay – Ankara – Turkey

Fax: 00 90 312 419 3370 – Email: sadullahergin@adalet.gov.tr

Press coverage

Write articles or letters for your local and national media, and for your own blogs and websites, to help raise awareness of these cases.

Social media – For Centres active on social media, please share information about these trials with your contacts on Facebook, Twitter and other social media.

·  For those of you using Twitter, please use the hashtag #pentrialmonitor so that we are able to track social media coverage more easily.

Trial observation

PEN Turkey and Kurdish PEN will be sending observers to the KCK trials. If your Centre is considering attending, please contact ann.harrison@pen-international.org for guidance.

Follow up

A review and update of the trials will be sent to Centres with ideas for future actions.


In November 2012, a PEN International delegation met with President Abdullah Gül to raise concerns about the large numbers of writers and journalists imprisoned and on trial in Turkey. During the meeting, President Gül acknowledged that the poor state of free expression ‘cast a shadow’ in Turkey. He made a commitment that the situation would be resolved and that the issue would ‘no longer [be] on the country’s agenda’.

Despite these promises, and recent judicial reforms, the number of literary professionals in prison and on trial in Turkey remains stubbornly high. PEN International’s records show around 65 writers and journalists in prison, and more than 70 more on trial. The continuing suppression of the media and social networks, as well as the attacks on journalists seen during the ongoing protests, belies a deep reluctance towards real change.

On 9 September 2013, as writers from around the world gather at the 79th World Congress of PEN International, yet another trial hearing will open against over 200 defendants, including five writers of particular concern to PEN. Detained in October 2011, academic, translator and writer Ayþe Berktay and author, translator and PhD candidate Deniz Zarakolu have now spent almost two years behind bars charged with ‘membership of an illegal org anisation’. Meanwhile Deniz Zarakolu’s father, prominent free expression activist and publisher Ragip Zarakolu, academic Büþra Ersanlý, and Kurdish language expert and poet Mulazim Özcan have all been released pending trial, but could nevertheless face lengthy sentences if found guilty as charged.

These writers and their co-defendants are among thousands of people believed to be on trial in Turkey as part of the ongoing investigation into the Koma Civakên Kurdistan (Group of Communities in Kurdistan) (KCK) an alleged umbrella organisation for groups with links to the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), and a number of other trial hearings are also scheduled to take place in September.

Among those due to face trial is human rights lawyer, writer and PEN Turkey member Muharrem Erbey who was arrested in December 2009 in Diyarbakýr, south eastern Turkey. More than three and a half years later, he remains in prison awaiting trial. PEN is gravely concerned that the charges against Muharrem Erbe y are politically motivated, and that he is being held because of his alleged affiliation with Kurdish political parties. His trial re-opens on 16 September.

The next hearing of more than 40 journalists dubbed the KCK ‘press wing’, many of whom remain in pre-trial detention, is also expected to begin on 25 September. PEN fears that the journalists, all of whom work for left-wing or pro-Kurdish news organisations, are being penalised for their legitimate coverage of the Kurdish issue. Among them is investigative journalist Zeyneb Ceren Kuray, who was released pending trial in April 2013, following a PEN campaig n on her behalf.

All of these writers are charged under Turkey’s anti-terror legislation, yet it is clear that many among the defendants are accused only for their engagement in debates on Kurdish issues, taking part in meetings and other activities that do not promote violence. These and other cases are examples of the application of anti-terror laws against writers who focus on issues ranging from Kurdish rights to official corruption to critiques of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). The trial processes, more often than not taking years to complete, are lengthy and bewildering in their complexity, adding to the concerns that terror laws are being used to penalise legitimate commentary on issues that are challenging to those in power.

PEN believes that the charges against these seven writers are in violation of their right to freedom of expression and association, as guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which Turkey has ratified, and the European Convention on Human and Democratic Rights, to which Turkey is a signatory. We are therefore calling for their immediate and unconditional release. PEN also calls for the release pending completion of the trials of all other writers and journalists held in the KCK case, and for assurances that none  are being tried in contravention of their rights.