NEW YORK—The ongoing judicial harassment of Pınar Selek makes a mockery of the Turkish justice system, says a statement released by PEN International, PEN American Center, and German PEN today. Trumped up charges against Selek, a Turkish sociologist and feminist, of involvement in the 1998 Istanbul Spice Bazaar explosion were renewed today at the 15th High Criminal Court in Istanbul, despite three previous acquittals. Selek faces life in prison if found guilty.

“Pınar Selek’s 16-year ordeal feels more like a chapter out of Kafka than a serious judicial undertaking,” said Katy Glenn Bass, Deputy Director of Free Expression Programs at PEN American Center who attended the October hearing in Selek’s case. “This is the fifth time Selek has been tried, in the absence of any reliable evidence implicating her in the case.”

Selek has been on trial for 16 years over a 1998 explosion that killed seven and injured 100 in the Istanbul Spice Bazaar. Selek has been acquitted of all charges three times (in 2006, 2008, and 2011) due to the testimony of expert witnesses that claimed that the cause of the explosion was a gas leak rather than a bomb, though courts have ordered retrials after each of these acquittals. Her fourth trial resulted in a conviction in January 2013 when Selek was handed an aggravated life sentence, although Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals overturned this conviction on June 11, 2014, on procedural grounds.

Selek has fled Turkey as a result of the judicial harassment against her and now lives abroad. “After 16 years of trials and retrials, the Turkish government should be embarrassed that this case remains on the court’s docket. It is long past time to end Pınar Selek’s judicial persecution and acquit her of all charges,” said Carles Torner, Executive Director of PEN International.  

Pınar Selek was in our Writers-in-Exile Program from December 2009 until November 2011. We are deeply shocked that this political and judicial scandal has not yet come to an end. All our sympathy and solidarity are with Pınar and her family and friends,” said Regula Venske, General Secretary of German PEN. The next hearing of Selek’s trial will be held on December 19, 2014.

Alev Yaman, Turkey Researcher, PEN International: +44 (0) 20 7405 0338,
Katy Glenn Bass, Free Expression Programs, PEN America: +1 212 334 1660 x 109,