March 7, 2011

Mr. Sadullah Ergin
Minister of Justice
06669 Kizilay
Fax: 00 90 312 419 3370

Your Excellency,

On behalf of the 3,500 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to express our extreme alarm regarding the detention of writers Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener.

According to our information, on March 6, 2011, Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener were formally charged with being members of the Ergenekon Organization, a clandestine, ultra-nationalist group with ties to members of Turkey’s military and security forces. They were taken to Metris Prison in Istanbul to await trial. The writers are believed to be detained for their research into and writings about the government’s Ergenekon investigation, under which over 200 people are being tried on allegations of involvement in coup plots.

Nedim Şener, who was awarded the 2010 Oxfam/Novib PEN Freedom of Expression prize and who was also last year named World Press Freedom Hero by the International Press Institute, was tried and subsequently acquitted in 2010 for a book he wrote that implicates the Turkish security forces in the 2007 murder of the Turkish-Armenian newspaper editor Hrant Dink. He has since written two other books on related issues, Red Friday: Who Broke Dink’s Pen? and Fetullah Gülen and the Gülen Community in Ergenekon Documents. It is believed that Şener’s arrest is linked to his research into suggestions that the Gülen movement, which promotes inter-faith dialogue, holds undue influence in the Ergenekon investigation. Şener reportedly received death threats earlier this year for comments that suggested that police who had been accused of negligence in the inquiry of Hrant Dink’s death were also linked to Ergenekon.

Police reportedly seized a draft manuscript of the book being written by Ahmet Şık, who, like Şener, is the author of books investigating Ergenekon and who also looked into the alleged affiliation of police to the Gülen movement. He is already on trial for two books on Ergenekon, co-authored with journalist Ertugrul Maviolgu, which opened in October 2010 and for which, if convicted, he faces more than four years in prison. According to Mavioglu, it was Şık’s articles, entitled “Coup Diaries” and published in 2007 in Nokta magazine, that led to the opening of the Ergenekon investigation.

We understand that since June 2007 there have been a series of arrests of leading figures in the military, politics, and police, as well as writers, academics, and journalists. Now numbering over 200, they are accused of membership in Ergenekon, whose aim is reportedly to overthrow the government and which has been linked to several assassinations, including that of Hrant Dink. There have been concerns regarding the conduct of the investigation. The trials opened in October 2008 and are expected to go on for years.

PEN American Center is seriously concerned that Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener have been arrested solely for their writings in contravention of their legitimate right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Turkey is a state party. We therefore call for their immediate and unconditional release.

Thank you for your consideration of this urgent matter.

Hannah Pakula                                              
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee           
Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: Ambassador Namık Tan
Embassy of Turkey to the United States
2525 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20008
Fax: (202) 612 6744

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