May 4, 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 express our concern over the opening of the trial 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.” Although Mr. Gürsel lives in France, his publishing house, Dogan Publishing, is situated in the Sisli District of Istanbul, and the case was brought in 2008 to the Sisli Prosecutor’s office. The prosecutor initiated an investigation and concluded there were no grounds on which to proceed. However, this decision was overruled and on May 5, 2009, the case will be heard by the Beyoglu Heavy Criminal Court in Istanbul.

PEN American Center believes that Nedim Gürsel has been targeted in violation of his right to freedom of expression, and urges that all charges against him be dropped immediately. We also 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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