RAPID ACTION NETWORK Appeal | September 24, 2013

By | September 24, 2013 at 3:35 pm | No comments | Campaigns | Tags: , ,

Turkey: Ayşe Berktay and Deniz Zarakolu set to remain in pre-trial detention two years on from their arrest

PEN Canada is deeply concerned by the refusal of an Istanbul court to release writer, translator, scholar and women’s rights activist Ayşe Berktay. She has been held in pre-trial detention as part of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) investigation for nearly two years. Berktay is on trial on what PEN International believes to be trumped-up charges of “membership of a terrorist organisation” and “making propaganda for a terrorist organisation.” Arrested as part of the same investigation in October 2011 is translator and PhD candidate Deniz Zarakolu, who is charged with “leadership of a terrorist organisation” and who also remains in pre-trial detention. PEN calls for the immediate and unconditional release of both writers and the dropping of all charges against them. Neither Berktay nor Zarakolu have any material links to terrorism or the plotting of violent acts.

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Please send immediate appeals:

  • Expressing alarm at the continued detention of Ayşe Berktay and Deniz Zarakolu, held solely on account because of their alleged affiliation with Kurdish political parties and who have not used or advocated violence;
  • Calling for their immediate and unconditional release from prison, and for all charges against them to be dropped;
  • Referring to concerns that Berktay and Zarakolu are being prosecuted on charges that contravene their 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.

Appeals to: 

Mr SadullahErgin
Ministry of Justice
06669 Kızılay
Ankara, Turkey

Fax: +90 312 419 3370
Email: sadullahergin@adalet.gov.tr

His Excellency Ambassador Tuncay Babali
Turkish Embassy, 197 Wurtemburg Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1N 8L9


Ayşe Berktay is a writer, translator, women’s rights and anti-war activist. Her published work largely centres on the role of women in the Ottoman Empire and Turkish Republic.

Police arrested Ayşe Berktay and raided her home at 5:00 a.m. on October 3, 2011, seizing personal papers and materials, though no arrest or search warrant had been issued. Berktay was eventually charged with “membership of an armed organisation” under Article 314/2 of the Turkish Penal Code; “membership of a terrorist organisation” under Article 5/1 of the Anti-Terror Law; “making propaganda for a terrorist organisation” under Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Law; and “participating in illegal meetings or demonstrations” under Article 23/b of the Meetings and Demonstrations Law.

The anti-terror investigation that Berktay has been implicated in centres around the alleged urban wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), known as KCK. This investigation has been used by Turkish prosecutors as a means to pursue those with ideological sympathies for, and affiliations to, Turkey’s pro-Kurdish political party, the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP). The prosecutors allege that there is an organisational tie between peaceful civilian actors and armed PKK militants, an argument which appears to stem solely from the fact that they share a joint ideological interest in pursuing greater rights for Turkey’s Kurdish citizens. Berktay is a BDP member, and is one of thousands of peaceful Kurdish and pro-Kurdish civilians in Turkey with no link to violence or the planning of violent acts that have been categorised as terrorist activity in the KCK investigation. According to the indictment, the evidence against her relates to the work she conducted and the meetings and demonstrations she attended on behalf of the BDP.

Deniz Zarakolu is a PhD student at Bilgi University in Istanbul specialising in political thought. He has written books on Thomas Hobbes and the Turkish justice system and has translated Hobbes’ De Cive. In 2002 he was arrested and charged with “inciting revenge or hatred” for a speech he gave at his mother’s funeral. He was subsequently acquitted.

Like Ayşe Berktay, Deniz Zarakolu was arrested in early October 2011 during a string of raids against Istanbul-based pro-Kurdish intellectuals, eventually being charged with “leadership of an armed organisation” under Article 314/1 of the Turkish Penal Code and “leadership of a terrorist organisation” under Article 5/1 of the Anti-Terror Law. The evidence listed in the indictment against Zarakolu centres on lectures he gave, particularly those given at the BDP’s Political Science Academy.

Deniz Zarakolu is being tried alongside his father, Ragıp Zarakolu, who has been charged with “knowingly and willing aiding and abetting an illegal organisation” under Article 220/7 of the Turkish Penal Code; “membership of an armed organisation” under Article 314/2 of the Turkish Penal Code via subsection 3 of the same article; and “membership of a terrorist organisation” under Article 5/1 of the Anti-Terror Law. Ragıp Zarakolu, an Honorary Member of PEN Canada, is one of Turkey’s best known publishers and minority rights activists and is currently free on bail pending the completion of his trial.

Ayşe Berktay and Deniz Zarakolu’s next hearing will run from October 1  to October 10,  2013. The main KCK trial in Diyarbakir, which includes human rights lawyer and advocate Muharrem Erbey, recommenced on September 23, 2013. The next hearing of another KCK-related trial — of 46 journalists in what is known as the “Press Wing trial”— is set to begin on 25 September 2013.

Photo credit: bianet.org 

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