March 27, 2012

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

Your Excellency,

On behalf of the 3,000 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 concern regarding the formal indictment of Professor Büşra Ersanlı and Ragıp Zarakolu.

According to our information, on March 19, 2012, Istanbul Public Prosecutor Adnan Cimen issued an indictment charging Professor Büşra Ersanlı with “leading an illegal organization” and Ragip Zarakolu with “aiding and abetting an illegal organization.” Professor Ersanlı faces between 15 and 22.5 years in prison if convicted, and Zarakolu between 7.5 and 15 years. The 2,400-page indictment was sent to the Istanbul 15th High Criminal Court and includes a total of 193 defendents, 147 of whom are currently in detention.

Professor Büşra Ersanlı and Ragip Zarakolu were arrested on October 28, 2011, under the Koma Civaken Kurdistan (KCK) operation that has been underway since 2009. The KCK is seen as the civil/political wing front for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), and thus considered illegal. Professor Ersanlı is part of the Faculty of Political Science and International Relations at Marmara University, and is an expert on constitutional law. At the time of her arrest, she was working with the Peace and Democracy Party’s (BDP) Constitutional Commission.

Ragip Zarakolu is a well-known political activist and 2012 Nobel Peace Prize nominee who has been fighting for freedom of expression in Turkey for over 30 years, publishing books on issues such as minority and human rights. Zarakolu has been charged under anti-terror legislation, and is currently in pre-trial detention. In the days leading up to his arrest, Zarakolu had been campaigning for the release of his son, Deniz Zarakolu, who was arrested three weeks earlier on October 7.

PEN American Center is seriously concerned about the indictment of Professor Büşra Ersanlı and Ragip Zarakolu. We protest their continued detention, as well as the detention of all other writers and journalists arrested because of their alleged affiliation with Kurdish political parties in direct violation of their right to freedom of expression and association guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention on Human and Democratic Rights, to which Turkey is a signatory. 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 Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20008
Fax: (202) 612-6744

>> Return to Rapid Action