July 27, 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 express our great concern regarding the new trial of publisher and PEN American Center Honorary Member Ragip Zarakolu and writer Mehmet Güler.

According to our information, on July 20, 2010, the Istanbul Public Prosecutor opened the trial against Zarakolu and Güler under Article 7 of the Anti Terror law for the book The KCK file/The Global State and Kurds Without a State. The first hearing is due on September 30. The book was presented at the Diyarbakir Book Fair in southeastern Turkey in May 2010, where it was seized by police, and subsequently banned. Zaraklolu and Güler deny the accusation that the book promotes violence and state that they are both committed to greater understanding about and a peaceful resolution to Kurdish issues. Zarakolu describes the book as a work of research of some 250 pages, of which 1000 had been printed, and denied that it can be construed as propaganda. Güler commented that his book studies issues such as the closure of Kurdish political parties and the arrests of activists and members of city councils in the past year, adding that he “…tried to give a short history of the Kurdish question, without being a supporter or an opponent for any side. … All citizens have a right to information about what is happening and I tried to be objective.”

On June 10, 2010, Zarakolu was acquitted of charges under Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Law for “spreading propaganda” for the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) for having published Güler’s novel More Difficult Decisions than Death. The court found Güler guilty of the same charge, and sentenced him to 15 months in prison. Güler remains free pending appeal.
PEN is disappointed to learn that Ragip Zarakolu is once again being tried in contravention of international standards safeguarding the right to freedom of expression, and that Mehmet Güler faces further charges. We remind the authorities that, if the men are convicted, it would be in breach of Turkey’s commitments under both 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 Ragip Zarakolu and Mehmet Güler will be granted full acquittals, 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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