NEW YORK—The release of prominent writer and journalist Asli Erdoğan and distinguished translator Necmiye Alpay today is cause for cautious optimism as their trial begins today, PEN America said in a statement.

A Turkish court has ordered the provisional release of both women pending trial on charges of propaganda for a terrorist organization. Erdoğan and Aplay were taken into custody in August as part of a crackdown on Özgür Gündem, a pro-Kurdish newspaper. The paper was closed in August and charges were filed against nine of its staff and associates, with prosecutors seeking aggravated life sentences for the accused.

Erdoğan, 49, and Alpay, 70, both served on the advisory board of paper, a symbolic position that had no formal decision-making authority over the publication. They have been released on probation and are not allowed to travel outside the country while their trial continues.

“While we welcome their release as a victory for free expression, Asli Erdoğan and Necmiye Alpay should never have spent the last four months behind bars,” said Karin Deutsch Karlekar, Director of Free Expression at Risk Programs at PEN America. “Their support for an embattled media outlet and the right to free expression of ideas is not a crime. Turkish authorities must drop immediately all charges against these two women and the seven others charged in the case.”

Turkey’s respect for press freedom and free expression has dramatically worsened in the wake of an attempted coup in July 2016. More than 100 writers and journalists are behind bars while many others are facing travel bans, legal charges, or other harsh restrictions. In August, PEN America initiated a petition to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (no relation to Asli Erdoğan) demanding an end to attacks on writers, and in October the PEN America Translation Committee petitioned again on behalf of Alpay.

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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, Deputy Director for Communications: sedkins@pen.org, +1.646.779.4830

Karin Deutsch Karlekar, Director of Free Expression at Risk Programs: kdkarlekar@pen.org, +1.646.779.4822