Trial of Publisher Ragıp Zarakolu and Writer Mehmet Güler, First Hearing on Sept 30
Ragip Zarakolu, publisher and free expression activist, is on trial again for publishing another book by author Mehmet Güler. Both Zarakolu and Güler have been charged using anti-terror legislation, following the publication of Güler’s book The KCK File/The Global State and Kurds Without a State. Previously, in June 2010, Zarakolu was acquitted on charges of spreading propaganda by publishing a different book by Güler, More Difficult Decisions Than Death, for which the author received a 15-month sentence. Once again, the two men are charged with publishing statements seen to support the banned Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK). PEN is disappointed to learn that Ragip Zarakolu is again being tried in contravention of international standards safeguarding the right to freedom of expression, and that Mehmet Güler faces further charges. The first hearing of the trial will take place on September 30, 2010.
On July 20, 2010, the Istanbul Public Prosecutor opened the trial against Zarakolu and Güler under Article 7 of the Anti Terror Law in connection with the book The KCK File/The Global State and Kurds Without a State. In May 2010, the book was presented at the Diyabakir Book Fair, in southeastern Turkey, where it was seized by police and subsequently banned. Zaraklolu and Güler both deny the accusation that the book promotes violence, and state that they are both committed to greater understanding of—and peaceful resolution to—Kurdish issues.
Zarakolu describes the book as a 250-page work of research, of which only 1000 copies had been printed. He denies that it could be construed as propaganda. Güler has commented that his book addresses issues such as the closure of Kurdish political parties and the arrests of activists and members of city councils in the past year. He says that he “…tried to give a short history of the Kurdish question, without being a supporter or an opponent for any side… All citizens have a right to information about what is happening and I tried to be objective.”
On June 10, 2010, Zarakolu was acquitted on charges under article 7/2 of the Anti Terror Law of “spreading propaganda” for the PKK following the publication of Güler’s previous novel, More Difficult Decisions Than Death. Three of the characters in the book are engaged in PKK activities, and during a trial scene one of them says, “This court has no right to judge me. I fight for freedom. I do not recognize this court.” The response of the fictional judge and the passages that follow form part of the indictment. Zarakolu’s prosecutor stated that some parts of the novel evoke sympathy for the PKK in its readers. Güler responded that he believed that one way to tackle problems in Turkey was through literature, saying it was “the best way to deal with social trauma.”
That trial opened in May 2009 and lasted just over a year. It concluded with Zarakolu’s acquittal and a 15-month sentence for Güler, who is free pending appeal. The date of his appeal has yet to be set.
Zarakolu is 62 years old and has been fighting for freedom of expression in Turkey for over 30 years, publishing books on issues such as 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
- Expressing concern that another trial has been opened against Ragip Zarakolu and Mehmet Güler that, if they are convicted, would be in breach 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;
- Urging that the Turkish government review all relevant laws with a goal of bringing them into accord with international human rights standards, in particular the ICCPR and European Convention on Human Rights, to which Turkey is a signatory.
Send Your Letter To
Mr. Sadullah ErginMinister of Justice
Fax: 00 90 312 419 3370
Please also send copies of your appeals to the diplomatic representative for Turkey in your country if possible.
Please contact PEN if sending appeals after September 30, 2010: ftw [at] pen.org