October 31, 2011

Minister of Justice
Mr. Sadullah Ergin
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 concern regarding the arrest of prominent human rights activist and PEN Honorary Member Ragip Zarakolu and Professor Büşra Ersanlı.

According to our information, Ragip Zarakolu, director of the Belge Publishing House, and Professor Büşra Ersanlı, an academic based at Istanbul’s Marmara University’s Faculty of Political Science and International Relations, were arrested on October 28, 2011. We understand that their arrests are part of a larger crackdown known as the Democratic Society Congress (KCK) operation, initiated in 2009 and still ongoing against Kurdish political parties and affiliates. Any charges against Zarakolu and Ersanli are currently unknown.

Ragip Zarakolu is a well-known political activist who has been fighting for freedom of expression in Turkey for over 30 years, publishing books on issues such as minority and human rights. In the days leading up to his arrest, he had been campaigning for the release of his son, Deniz Zarakolu, who was arrested three weeks earlier on October 7, also under the KCK operation.

Professor Büşra Ersanli is an expert on constitutional law and at the time of her arrest, she was working with the Peace and Democracy Party’s (BDP) Constitutional Commission. We understand that the BDP was created after the Democratic Society Party (DTP) was forcibly closed down in 2009 on accusation of affiliation to the PKK. The BDP has made it clear, however, that it is not affiliated with the PKK and that the PKK does not influence its political policy. Despite this, BDP and former DTP members have been arrested and harassed.

PEN American Center is seriously concerned that Ragip Zarakolu and Professor Büşra Ersanlı, as well as many other writers and journalists, have been arrested because of their affiliation with Kurdish political parties in direct violation of the 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

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