Türkiye: End the decades-long judicial harassment of PEN member Pınar Selek
Sociologist, writer, feminist, and PEN Türkiye member Pınar Selek has been on a decades-long trial over a 1998 explosion that killed seven and injured 127 in the Istanbul Spice Bazaar. Selek has been acquitted of all charges four times – in 2006, 2008, 2011 and 2014 – due to the testimony of expert witnesses that confirmed that the cause of the explosion was a gas leak rather than a bomb. However, the courts ordered retrials after each of these acquittals. On June 21, 2022, Türkiye’s state-run news agency announced that the Supreme Court had overturned Selek’s fourth acquittal. A first hearing before the Istanbul Criminal Court has been set for March 31, 2023. Selek is the subject of an international arrest warrant and faces life in prison without the possibility of parole.
PEN believes that Pınar Selek’s prosecution is linked to her work as a sociologist focusing on minority rights and Kurdish communities in the mid-to-late 1990s, and that she is being pursued through the courts as a means of penalizing her for her legitimate research and commentary. PEN calls on the authorities of Türkiye to end their decades-long harassment of Selek and to unconditionally drop all charges against her.
Please send appeals to the authorities of Türkiye:
- Expressing concern that another trial has been opened against Pınar Selek on charges of which she has already been acquitted by courts of law four times;
- Urging that the charges against Selek are dismissed;
- Calling for the decades-long judicial harassment of Selek to end once and for all.
Send appeals to:
Role: Minister of Justice
Address: Ministry of Justice, Adalet Bakanlığı, 06659 Ankara, Türkiye
Contact: [email protected]
Send copies to the Embassy of Türkiye in your own country. Embassy addresses may be found here: https://cd.mfa.gov.tr/mission/mission-list?clickedId=3
Please reach out to your Ministry of Foreign Affairs and diplomatic representatives in Türkiye, calling on them to raise the case of Pınar Selek in bilateral fora.
***Please send appeals immediately. Check with PEN International if sending appeals after April 30, 2023. ***
Please inform PEN International of any action you take and any responses you receive. Messages can be sent to Aurélia Dondo, Head of Europe and Central Asia Region: [email protected]
PEN members are encouraged to:
- Publish articles and opinion pieces in your national or local press highlighting the case of Pınar Selek and the state of freedom of expression in Türkiye;
- Share information about Pınar Selek and your campaigning activities via social media.
Please keep us informed of your activities.
Pınar Selek’s support committee is also encouraging supporters to observe her trial hearing in Istanbul on March 31, 2023. For more information and to take part, please click here.
Pınar Selek, born on October 8, 1971, is a sociologist, writer, feminist, and member of PEN Türkiye. She has written extensively about the plight of women, the poor, street children, the LGBTI community, and the Kurds in Türkiye . She is one of the founding editors of Amargi, a Turkish feminist journal. Her latest book Azucena ou Les fourmis zinzines was published in April 2022. She has been living in France since 2012 and holds French-Turkish citizenship.
Pınar Selek was arrested on July 11, 1998 over an explosion that happened at the Istanbul Spice Bazaar two days earlier, a tragedy that led to the deaths of seven people and injured 127 others. At the time, Selek had been working on an oral history of the banned Kurdistan’s Workers Party (PKK) and talking to some of PKK members to find out why they had chosen armed violence. Selek reported being tortured under investigation, in an attempt to make her divulge the names of the individuals she had interviewed as part of her research. She was charged with membership of a terrorist organization on July 28, 1998. Shortly afterwards, another suspect confessed that the two had carried out the Istanbul Spice Bazaar bombing together, although he later recanted his testimony, saying it has been extracted under torture. Selek was nevertheless charged with the bombing and spent two and a half years in Umraniye prison, Istanbul. She was freed on December 22, 2000 after a team of experts concluded that the explosion had not been caused by a bomb, but by the accidental ignition of a gas cylinder.
Despite these findings, the case continued and in December 2005 a new trial was opened against her, ending with an acquittal six months later in June 2006. In April 2007, the Court of Appeals requested a review of the case and reversed the acquittal. This went to consideration, and in May 2008 Selek was acquitted for a second time. In 2009, the Court of Appeals reversed the acquittal again, and sent the case for review once more. The lower court refused to conduct a review on the grounds that the acquittal was legitimately and fairly given, and upheld Selek’s acquittal in February 2011 for a third time. However, at a November 2012 hearing, the lower court decided to drop its refusal and proceed with reopening the trial against Selek. Her fourth trial resulted in a conviction in January 2013 when Selek was handed an aggravated life sentence, although this conviction was overturned by Türkiye’s Supreme Court of Appeals in June 2014 on procedural grounds. The 15th High Criminal Court in Istanbul subsequently acquitted Selek of all charges in December 2014. On June 21, 2022, Türkiye’s state-run news agency announced that the Supreme Court had overturned Selek’s fourth acquittal. A first hearing before the Istanbul Criminal Court has been set for March 31, 2023.
The situation for freedom of expression in Türkiye remains a grave concern. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 40 journalists were behind bars as of 1 December 2022. In September 2022, the Assembly of Delegates of PEN International notably adopted a resolution on the repression of Kurdish language and culture in Türkiye, which called on the authorities to end the prosecution and detention of writers on the basis of the content of their writing – including in support of Kurdish language and culture – and to immediately release all those held for peacefully expressing their views.
PEN International and PEN Centers have long supported Pınar Selek, by notably observing her trial hearings and campaigning for all charges against her to be dropped. Selek is a former resident of German PEN’s Writers-in-Exile program. For more information, please click here.
For more information about about Pınar Selek and actions by her support committee, please click here.
For further details contact Aurélia Dondo, Head of Europe and Central Asia Region at PEN International: [email protected]
This alert comes directly from PEN International as part of the Rapid Action Network.