To mark the more than two and a half years since Muharrem Erbey’s arrest and detention by Turkish authorities, PEN International calls for all charges against him to be dropped and for his immediate and unconditional release from prison. The human rights lawyer, writer, and PEN Turkey Member was arrested in December 2009 in the city of Diyarbakır in southeast Turkey, where he was president of the region’s Human Rights Association (IHD). He has been held in prison ever since. PEN reiterates its concerns that his charges are linked to his work as a human rights advocate.

Background Information

Autumn. In the morning, as I reach over the barbed wire crowning this wall six or seven metres in height, the sun as it passes briefly through our ventilation system and away again, the sound of the sparrows that perch on the wire and fly off with the crumbs of bread we toss, the squawking of doves overhead, this sky stained a cold and faded blue, the wind that howls and carries dry fragments of grass through the ventilation – all work the ache of loneliness finely and deeply into me, as the captivity of my shivering body grows a storey higher.
—Muharrem Erbey's letter from prison

Erbey is charged with “membership of an illegal organization” under Article 220/6 of the Turkish Penal Code, with specific reference to the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), the alleged political front of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The PKK has been fighting an armed struggle against the Turkish state since 1984. The KCK investigation, underway since April 2009, has led to the detention of over 8,000 suspects under the Anti-Terror Law (ATL), approximately 4,000 of whom have been placed in pre-trial detention, according to Turkish human rights monitors such as Bianet. PEN estimates that over 90 writers, journalists, and publishers are under investigation under the ATL, most of them related to the KCK investigation.

Erbey has garnered international respect for his work as a human rights lawyer, and has represented a number of individuals whose cases have been heard by the European Court of Human Rights. In 2008 he was granted the vice presidency of the IHD, which is one of Turkey’s most reputable human rights organizations, after many years as president of its Diyarbakır branch. He is also known for his research into disappearances and extra-judicial killings in and around the Diyarbakır region.

Erbey has worked as a columnist and writer, and is a member of the Kurdish Writers’ Association. In 2007 he co-edited a collection of Turkish and Kurdish language stories by 35 authors, which was distributed to the local people for free by the Diyarbakır Metropolitan Municipality (Erbey successfully defended the mayo,r who organized this publication, when he was later put on trial under a law that prohibited use of the Kurdish alphabet). He was also instrumental in the publication of another short story collection in 2004, Missing Pedigree. The publication of his latest short story collection, My Father, Aharon Usta, has been put on hold since his arrest.

In June 2012, Erbey wrote a letter to a number of organizations, including PEN International.

More Information:

Write A Letter

  • Expressing alarm at the continued detention of Muharrem Erbey and other writers and journalists held because of their alleged affiliation with Kurdish political parties;
  • Calling for his immediate and unconditional release from prison, and for all charges against him to be dropped;
  • Referring to concerns that Muharrem Erbey is being prosecuted on charges that contravene his right to freedom of expression and association, as guaranteed by 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

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 October 12, 2012: ftw [at]