Ragip Zarakolu, publisher and human rights activist, who has been subject to harassment, trials, and periods of imprisonment since the 1970s, was acquitted at a hearing on June 10, 2010. On trial in Turkey since May 2009, Zarakolu faced a prison sentence of more than seven years for publishing the novel More Difficult Decisions Than Death, written by N. Mehmet Güler. Both Zarakolu and Güler were accused under Article 7/2 of the Anti Terror Law of “spreading propaganda” for the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). N. Mehmet Güler was convicted and sentenced to 15 months in prison at the same hearing. While International PEN welcomes the acquittal of Ragip Zarakolu, it is disappointed by the conviction of Mehmet Güler, an act that breaches Turkey’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. PEN urges members and supporters to renew their calls for his acquittal. Güler remains free as he appeals his sentence.

Background Information

Attending the trial were Eugene Schoulgin, International Secretary of International PEN, and Alexis Krikorian of the International Publisher’s Association. Schoulgin commented on the conviction: "In November 2009, the prosecutor did not want to proceed with the case. In March 2010, a new prosecutor reversed that decision and decided to go ahead. It is not only Turkish legislation which needs reform. Practice also needs change and stability. Additionally, it is not only the big names attracting media attention like Elif Shafak or Orhan Pamuk, who need acquittal. The lesser-known names need acquittals too, in those freedom of expression trials.”

Zarakolu, age 62, has been fighting for freedom of expression in Turkey for over 30 years, publishing books on issues including minority and human rights. As one of the 50 writers chosen to represent the struggle for freedom of expression since 1960 for the Writers in Prison Committee’s 50th Anniversary Campaign—Because Writers Speak Their Minds—Zarakolu’s case is emblematic of the ongoing struggles many writers, publishers and freedom of expression and human rights activists in Turkey continue to face.

Write A Letter

  • Welcoming the acquittal of Ragip Zarakolu but expressing concern that the author Mehmet Güler was sentenced to a prison term;
  • Pointing out that Güler’s sentence is a violation of Turkey’s commitments under both Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR);
  • Expressing the hope that Mehmet Güler will be granted a full acquittal following his appeal hearing;
  • Urging the Turkish government to take this opportunity to reconsider how it handles cases of freedom of expression and to review all relevant laws with a view toward bringing them into accord with international human rights standards, in particular the ICCPR and ECHR, to which Turkey is a signatory.

Send Your Letter To

Mr Sadullah Ergin
Minister of Justice
06669 Kizilay
Ankara, Turkey
Fax: 00 90 312 419 3370

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