NEW YORK—The reopening of the 19-year-old case against Turkish sociologist and feminist Pinar Selek after a remarkable four acquittals is an unconscionable disservice to the judicial process, PEN America said in a statement today. Selek—who has been charged with involvement in an explosion which killed seven and injured over 100 at the Istanbul Spice Bazaar in 1998, though no evidence has ever implicated her—once again faces a life sentence if found guilty.

Selek fled Turkey in 2009 due to ongoing judicial harassment over this case. She remains in exile, under constant threat of the renewal of trumped-up charges against her. Experts have consistently agreed that the blast she is accused of orchestrating was not caused by a bomb, but rather the accidental ignition of a gas cylinder. Despite this, and despite a lack of any new corroborating evidence, authorities have protested each of her acquittals (in 2006, 2008, and 2011) with a disturbing rate of success. Only days after her fourth acquittal in 2014, the decision was protested by Istanbul’s public prosecutor. It was reversed in January 2017, again without any new evidence.

“The charges against Pinar Selek have long been proven to be groundless, and the multitude of trials for the same crime with no reasonable objection to her innocence is an appalling affront to justice,” said Karin Deutsch Karlekar, director of Free Expression at Risk Programs at PEN America. “We urge the Turkish authorities to demonstrate understanding and practice of sound judicial logic by dismissing this case and closing it for good, putting to rest the fears of Selek and her family once and for all.”

It is widely believed that the continued prosecution of Selek is linked to her work as a sociologist researching Kurdish issues in the mid- to late-1990s and to contact that she established with the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). In light of the Erdogan government’s crackdown on free expression, which has included mass firings of university professors and academics as well as the April referendum granting the president further executive powers, the implications of the case against Selek are all the more dangerous for Selek, her family, and all intellectuals, activists, and free thinkers in Turkey.


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

CONTACT Sarah Edkins, Director for Communications: +1 646-779-4830,