February 4, 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 upcoming trial of writer and sociologist Pinar Selek.

According to our information, on February 9, 2011, Pinar Selek, founder of the Amargi Women’s Solidarity Cooperative, will be tried in Istanbul for a third time on charges relating to an explosion that occurred in an Istanbul market in 1998. She was arrested in July of that year and served two and a half years in prison before a team of experts concluded that the explosion had not been caused by a bomb, but by the accidental ignition of a gas cylinder. Despite these findings, the case against Selek continued until a new trial was opened against her in December 2005. This trial ended with her acquittal six months later in June 2006. Selek faces a 36-year prison sentence if she is found guilty of the charges.

It is widely believed that the renewed prosecution of Selek is linked to her work as a sociologist researching Kurdish issues in the 1990s, and to contact that she established with the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). According to our sources, no evidence has been presented to suggest that Selek was either a member of the PKK or engaged in violent activities. It is widely believed that she is being pursued through the courts as a means of penalizing her for her legitimate research and commentary. These concerns are intensified by the allegations that Selek, during her two-and-a-half-year imprisonment from 1998 to 2000, was tortured in an attempt to force her to confess to false charges.

PEN American Center is seriously concerned that Pinar Selek is being subjected to a campaign of judicial harassment that is part of a wider crackdown on those who advocate for minority rights in Turkey. Selek has already been tried twice on the same charges, and we therefore urge you to facilitate the dismissal of all charges against her and end all harassment immediately.

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

>> Back to Rapid Action