March 14, 2011

Mr. Sadullah Ergin
Minister of Justice
06669 Kizilay

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 sentences handed down to publisher Ragip Zarakolu and author Mehmet Güler.

According to our information, on March 10, 2011, the Istanbul Public Prosecutor imposed a fine on Zarakolu and a 15-month suspended prison term on Güler under article 7/2 of the Anti Terror Law, “spreading propaganda,” for what was deemed to be their support for the banned Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK) following Zarakolu’s publication of Güler’s book The KCK File/The Global State and Kurds Without a State. In May 2010 the book was presented at the Diyabakir Book Fair in southeastern Turkey, where it was seized by police and subsequently banned. Zaraklolu and Güler both deny the accusation that the book promotes violence and have stated that they are committed to a peaceful resolution of Kurdish issues. Güler has commented that he attempted to objectively address issues such as the closure of Kurdish political parties and the arrests of activists and members of city councils in the past year.

PEN American Center is relieved that Ragip Zarakolu and Mehmet Güler did not receive prison terms; however, we remain concerned that their convictions are indicative of a worsening climate for freedom of expression in Turkey and are in breach of international treaties to which Turkey is a party. We therefore urge you to review all relevant laws with the aim of reversing this trend and bringing them into accord with international human rights standards, particularly Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, 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: Ambassador Namık Tan
Embassy of Turkey to the United States
2525 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20008
Fax: (202) 612-6744

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