Istanbul’s chief prosecutor has ordered the indictment of Büşra Ersanlı and Ragip Zarakolu this week. PEN International protests the charges facing the writers and their continued detention.

Background Information

On March 19, 2012, Istanbul Public Prosecutor Adnan Çimen issued an indictment charging Professor Ersanlı with “leading an illegal organization” and publisher Zarakolu with “aiding and abetting an illegal organization.” The prosecutor has demanded between 15 and 22.5 years for Ersanlı and 7.5 and 15 years for Zarakolu. The 2,400-page indictment was sent to the Istanbul 15th High Criminal Court and includes a total of 193 defendants, 147 of whom are currently in detention.
Professor Büşra Ersanlı and Ragıp Zarakolu were arrested on October 28, 2011. Forty-one people were also arrested around the same time under what is known as the Democratic Society Congress (Koma Civaken Kurdistan – KCK) operation that has been under way since 2009, leading to several hundred, some say over 1,000, arrests and trials. The KCK is seen as the civil/political wing front for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), and thus also illegal. 
Ersanlı is an academic based at Istanbul’s Marmara University’s Faculty of Political Science and International Relations. She is an expert on constitutional law and at the time of her arrest was working with the Peace and Democracy Party’s (BDP) Constitutional Commission.
Zarakolu is a well-known publisher and political activist who has been fighting for freedom of expression and human rights in Turkey for over 30 years. Last month he was nominated for the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize by the Swedish Members of Parliament. He is facing trial under anti-terror legislation for “membership of an illegal organization” for a speech he made to the pro-Kurdish BDP and articles he has written.
Deniz Zarakolu, an academic and translator, was also arrested under anti-terror legislation after giving a lecture at the Political Science Academy of the pro-Kurdish BDP opposition party. He was moved to Metris prison where his father, Ragip Zarakolu, is currently being held. Several other scholars linked to the Academy have also been arrested under anti-terror legislation, including Ayşe Berktay. Berktay, a scholar, author, and women’s activist has been held in pre-trial detention since October 2011 and a formal indictment is yet to be issued.
Professor Büşra Ersanlı, Ragıp Zarakolu, and Ayşe Berktay are honorary members of PEN Turkey.

More Information:

Write A Letter

  • Expressing alarm at the continued detention of Ragıp Zarakolu, Professor Büşra Ersanlı, Ayşe Berktay, Deniz Zarakolu, and other writers and journalists detained because of their alleged affiliation with Kurdish political parties;
  • Expressing concerns that the arrests flout international standards protecting the rights to freedom of expression and association as guaranteed by both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the European Convention on Human and Democratic Rights, to which Turkey is a signatory.

Send Your Letter To

Minister of Justice
Mr Sadullah Ergin
06669 Kizilay
Fax: 00 90 312 419 3370
Email: [email protected]

Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Turkey in your country if possible.

Please send appeals immediately. Check with PEN if sending appeals after April 23, 2012: ftw [at]