May 14, 2009

Mehmet Ali Sahin
Minster of Justice
Adalet Bakanligi
06659 Ankara
Fax: 00-90-312419-3370

Your Excellency,

On behalf of the 3,300 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to reiterate our concern over the continued trials against writer Nedim Gürsel.

According to our information, Nedim Gürsel was charged under Article 216 (3) of the Turkish Penal Code for “incitement to enmity or hatred,” a charge that carries a penalty of six months to one year in prison, for his book, Daughters of Allah. Authorities claim the book “humiliate[s] the religious values of part of the population.” At the opening hearing of the trial before the Beyoglu Heavy Criminal Court in Istanbul on May 5, 2009, the prosecution stated there was no evidence that the book presents a threat to public security and cannot be seen as inciting hatred. The prosecution had already come to this conclusion prior to the trial, but its decision was overruled. The next hearing has been scheduled for May 26, 2009.

Despite recommendations from the prosecution that Daughters of Allah does not breach Turkish law, the Beyoglu Heavy Criminal Court has agreed to hear another complaint against the book on similar grounds, also initiated by a private individual. The first hearing of this second case will also be held on May 26, 2009.

PEN American Center believes that Nedim Gürsel has been targeted in violation of his right to freedom of expression, and again urges that all charges against him be dropped immediately. We also renew our call for a review of all legislation that allows for the prosecution of those who practice their rights as guaranteed under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

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

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