June 15, 2010

Mr Sadullah Ergin
Minister of Justice
06669 Kizilay
Ankara, Turkey
Fax: 00 90 312 419 3370

Your Excellency,

On behalf of the 3,400 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to welcome the acquittal of publisher and PEN American Center Honorary Member Ragip Zarakolu, and to express our concern over the conviction of author Mehmet Güler during the same trial.

According to our information, on June 10, 2010, a court found writer Mehmet Güler guilty of “spreading propaganda” for the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) under Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Law for his book More Difficult Decisions Than Death, and sentenced him to 15 months in prison. Ragip Zarakolu, of Belge Publishing House, which published the novel, was acquitted of the same charge. The case was initiated in May 2009, when the prosecutor initially stated that some parts of the novel evoke sympathy for the PKK in its readers, but at a hearing on November 19, 2009, the prosecutor pointed out that no crime had been committed and called for the two to be released. However, at the next hearing on March 25, 2010, another prosecutor expressed the opposite view—that the book does provide terrorist propaganda. The trial was adjourned until June 10, 2010, when the verdicts were announced. Güler remains free pending appeal.
PEN American Center is seriously concerned that Mehmet Güler has been convicted and sentenced in violation of his right to freedom of expression as protected under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). We hope that Güler will be granted a full acquittal following his appeal, and that the Turkish government will take this opportunity to reconsider how it handles cases of freedom of expression and to review all relevant laws with the goal of bringing them into accord with international human rights standards, in particular the ICCPR and ECHR, to which Turkey is a signatory.

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: 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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