On June 11, 2014, Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals will deliver its final decision in the marathon trial of sociologist, writer, and feminist Pınar Selek. Selek is accused of involvement in a 1998 explosion that killed seven and injured 100 in the Istanbul Spice Bazaar, and has been tried four times since her arrest in 1998. She was acquitted in the first three of these trials (in 2006, 2008 and 2011) due to the testimony of expert witnesses that claimed that the cause of the explosion was most likely an accidental gas leak rather than a bomb. She was sentenced to life in prison in her fourth trial, which took place in January 2013, after the judge presiding over the court that had previously acquitted her was replaced. This new judge promptly ordered Selek’s retrial soon after his appointment. Detained for two and a half years before being freed pending trial, Selek fled Turkey and now lives abroad. The trial against her continues in absentia. PEN protests the continuing judicial harassment of Selek and, in the absence of any conclusive or reliable evidence, calls for her immediate acquittal.

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Background Information

Pınar Selek is a Turkish sociologist, writer and feminist known for her work on the rights of vulnerable communities in Turkey. She has written extensively about the plight of women, the poor, street children, the LGBT community, and the Kurds in Turkey. She has been published in Turkish, French, and German, and is one of the founding editors of Amargi, a leading Turkish feminist journal.

Commentators believe that the 16-year prosecution of Selek is linked to her work as a sociologist researching Kurdish issues in the mid-to-late 1990s, and to contact with the banned Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK). No evidence has been presented that shows Selek to have been a member of the PKK or to have engaged in violent activities. It is widely believed that she is being pursued through the courts as a means of penalizing her for her legitimate research and commentary. These concerns are intensified by the allegations that Selek, during her imprisonment from 1998 to 2000, suffered torture under investigation in an attempt to make her confess to the charges.

Writer Günter Wallraf and Christa Schuenke, former vice president of the German PEN Center, observed Selek’s conviction in January 2013. The German PEN Center’s General Secretary Regula Venske also observed Selek’s previous hearing in April 2014. The June 11 trial will be observed by Imre Török from the German PEN Center.

Kurdish transgender playwright Esmeray wrote a play about Pınar Selek’s trial titled Bizim Atölye (Our Studio), which premiered in Depo, Istanbul in May 2013. Selek’s trial has received international attention and various human rights organisations have campaigned on her behalf. She is represented in court by her father Alp Selek, who was imprisoned in the aftermath of the 1980 military coup in Turkey.


Write A Letter

  • Protesting the continuing judicial harassment of Pınar Selek after 16 years on trial and three acquittals;
  • Calling on the Turkish authorities to acquit her of all charges and to drop the arrest warrant against her immediately, enabling her to return to Turkey without fear of arrest;
  • Expressing concern that, in the absence of any conclusive or reliable evidence, the trial against Selek contravenes her right to a fair trial as guaranteed under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention on Human and Democratic Rights, to which Turkey is a state party.

Send Your Letter To

Minister of Justice Bekir Bozdağ
Milli Müdafaa Caddesi No: 22
06659 Kızılay
Ankara, Turkey
Fax: +90 312 419 33 70
Email: [email protected]; [email protected]
Twitter: @bybekirbozdag

If possible, please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Turkey in your country and let us know of any actions you have taken and responses you receive.