On December 24, 2009, human rights lawyer, writer and PEN Turkey member Muharrem Erbey was arrested in Diyabakir, southeastern Turkey. Two weeks later, he remains in prison awaiting trial. He was among 80 people arrested on accusation of having links with an organization said to be affiliated with the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Muharrem Erbey is a highly respected human rights lawyer and vice president of the Human Rights Association (IHD) who has conducted research into disappearances and extra-judicial killings in and around the Diyabakir region. International PEN shares concerns of other human rights observers that Muharrem Erbey’s arrest appears to be linked to his human rights advocacy.

Background Information

Muharrem Erbey, aged 40, is a lawyer who, since the late 1990s, has worked on human rights issues, for which he has gained international respect. He has represented a number of individuals whose cases have come to the European Court on Human Rights. In 2008 he became Vice President of the IHD, one of Turkey ’s most reputable human rights associations. He is also president of the Diyabakir Branch of the IHD.

According to reports, members of the Anti-Terror Unit of the Diyabakir Security Directorate took Erbey from his home in the early hours of December 24, 2009. Erbey was charged under Article 220/6 of the Penal Code with “membership of an illegal organization,” the Kurdistan Democratic Confederation (KCK), said to be affiliated to the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). He is being held in Diyabakir D Type Prison. Around 80 others were arrested across the region, 23 of whom are said to remain detained.

Commentators have referred to recent visits by Erbey to various European parliaments, including in Sweden, Belgium and the UK, where he spoke on Kurdish rights. He had also participated in a Kurdish film festival staged in Italy in late 2009. In September 2009 he had taken part in a workshop on minority rights in Diyabakir. At the time of his arrest, the offices of the IHD were searched and documentation seized, including archives on serious human rights violations over the past two decades, including extrajudicial killings and disappearances.

Also a writer, Erbey’s collection of short stories, My Father, Aharon Usta, is due to be published shortly. In 2007 he was a co-editor of a collection of Turkish and Kurdish language stories by 35 authors, distributed by the Diyabakir Metropolitan Municipality free to local people. The Mayor who organized the publication was subsequently brought to trial under a law that prohibited the use of the Kurdish alphabet (since annulled). Erbey defended the mayor, who was subsequently acquitted after Erbey had gathered 300 writers’ signatures against the court hearing. Another short story collection, Missing Pedigree, was published in 2004. He has written many articles on culture, children’s and human rights that have appeared in arts and culture magazines, newspapers and web sites. He is a member of PEN Turkey and the Kurdish Writers’ Association.

Write A Letter

  • Expressing concern over the arrest of Muharrem Erbey for reasons which appear to be related to his human rights advocacy;
  • Asking for assurances that his arrest does not fall foul of international standards protecting the rights to freedom of expression and association, and that the judicial proceedings against him follow full and proper fair trial process;
  • Adding the call for the judicial process against him to be carried out expediently and without delay.

Send Your Letter To

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

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

Please check with PEN if sending appeals after February 28, 2010: ftw [at] pen.org