April 10, 2012

Minister of Justice
Mr. Sadullah Ergin
06669 Kizilay
Fax: 00 90 312 419 3370

Your Excellency,

On behalf of the 3,000 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 release pending trial of publisher and human rights activist Ragıp Zarakolu, but remain concerned that he still faces a steep sentence and that scores of writers and intellectuals are still imprisoned.

According to our information, on April 10, 2012, Ragıp Zarakolu and 14 other suspects accused of membership of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) were released pending trial. The Istanbul 15th High Criminal Court cited the length of time the suspects had already been imprisoned, “the nature of their crimes,” and “the state of the evidence” as reasons for their release. One hundred and seventy-eight of the 193 suspects in the KCK trial remain in detention, including Professor Büsra Ersanli and Zarakolu’s son, Deniz Zarakolu. Ragip Zarakolu, who had been imprisoned in a high-security prison since his arrest last year, expects his first hearing on July 2.

Ragıp Zarakolu was arrested on October 28, 2011, under the KCK operation that has been underway since 2009. The KCK is seen as the civil/political wing front for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), and thus considered illegal. On March 19, 2012, a formal indictment charged Ragıp Zarakolu with “aiding and abetting an illegal organization,” for which he could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

Ragıp Zarakolu is a well-known political activist and 2012 Nobel Peace Prize nominee 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, Zarakolu had been campaigning for the release of his son, Deniz Zarakolu, who was arrested three weeks earlier on October 7.

PEN American Center welcomes the release pending trial of Ragıp Zarakolu, but calls on authorities to drop the charges against him. We also protest the continued detention of Professor Büşra Ersanlı, translator Ayşe Berktay, and  Deniz Zarakolu, as well as all other writers and journalists arrested because of their alleged affiliation with Kurdish political parties in direct violation of their 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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