The trial against author Nedim Gürsel, who stands accused of  “incitement to enmity or hatred” for his book, Daughters of Allah, is to continue despite the prosecutor’s advice that he be acquitted. At the opening hearing of the trial on May 5, 2009, the prosecution stated that there was no evidence that the book presents a threat to public security and cannot be seen as inciting hatred. The next hearing will be held on May 26, 2009.

Background Information

Gürsel has been charged under Article 216 (3) of the Turkish Penal Code relating to "incitement to enmity or hatred.” His book is believed to "humiliate the religious values of part of the population" and carries a penalty of six months to one year in prison. Although Mr. Gürsel lives in France, his publishing house, Dogan Publishing, is situated in the Sisli District of Istanbul, and the case was brought in 2008 to the Sisli Prosecutor's Office. The prosecutor initiated an investigation that concluded there were no grounds to proceed. However, this decision was overruled and the case was taken to the Beyoglu Heavy Criminal Court in Istanbul.

Despite recommendations from the prosecution on May 5 that the book does not breach Turkish law, the Beyoglu Heavy Criminal Court has agreed to hear another complaint against the book on similar grounds, also initiated by a private individual. The first hearing of this second case will also be held on May 26, 2009, the same day as the second hearing of the first case.

A number of writers and publishers in Turkey have been prosecuted in recent years on similar grounds, notably the recent, and so far unsuccessful, cases brought against the Turkish publisher of Richard Dawkin's God Delusion. There have been no recent cases of writers being imprisoned, and almost no convictions. However, the very existence of legislation that penalizes commentary on religion acts as a deterrent to free expression. Whatever their outcome, the trials often take many months if not years to conclude, and sap financial and emotional resources. This is a price that some may not be willing to pay, instead choosing self-censorship.

PEN has long campaigned against the trials of writers under a multitude of laws in Turkey that curtail free speech on issues ranging from commentary on human rights abuses by the army, corruption, the killings of Armenians in 1915, Kurdish issues, to conscientious objection, religion, and so on. At present PEN is monitoring around 70 such trials. The trial against Nedim Gürsel is one more example of the continuing suppression of free expression in Turkey. PEN calls on the Turkish authorities to strongly consider that proceeding with this trial would directly conflict with the country’s obligations to protect freedom of expression as dictated by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights. PEN calls for an end to such trials and a thorough review of Turkish legislation aimed at the elimination of all articles that could lead to the prosecution of those who practice their rights to write freely and without hindrance.

Write A Letter

  • Protesting the trial against Nedim Gürsel and other writers currently on trial in violation of their right to freedom of expression;
  • Calling for a review of all legislation that allows for the prosecution of those who practice their rights as guaranteed under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Send Your Letter To

Mehmet Ali Sahin
Minister of Justice
Adalet Bakanligi
06659 Ankara
Fax: 00 90 312 419 3370

Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Turkey in your country if possible.
Please check with PEN if sending appeals after May 30, 2009: ftw[at]