The Turkish authorities must drop all charges against award-winning writer Aslı Erdoğan, who faces up to nine years and four months in prison for her writings, PEN International said today, ahead of an expected verdict on February 14 2020.
Aslı Erdoğan was detained in August 2016 following a police raid on her apartment. She was arrested alongside more than 20 other journalists and employees from the now-closed pro-Kurdish daily Özgür Gündem, where she served as an advisory board member and columnist. Initially charged with being a member of a terrorist organization and disrupting the unity of the state, she was released from pre-trial detention on December 29 2016 following a national and international outcry.
On January 13 2019, prosecutors requested that Aslı Erdoğan be sentenced to up to nine years and four months in prison for ‘making propaganda for a terrorist organization’. Charges against her stem from four articles she wrote and published in Özgür Gündem in 2016. A verdict is expected to be announced at the next hearing on February 14 2020.
‘Proceedings against Aslı Erdoğan have been dragging on for three and a half years. She has been forced to spend 132 days behind bars and has had to suffer a travel ban for months – and all that because she has expressed her views peacefully. This is a blatantly politically motivated prosecution, which has tormented Aslı Erdoğan and countless independent voices in Turkey. With a verdict looming, the PEN community continues to stand firmly in solidarity with Aslı Erdoğan and emphatically and forcefully calls for all charges against her to be dropped,’ said Salil Tripathi, Chair of PEN International’s Writer in Prison Committee.
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Fifty-six journalists and activists took part in a solidarity campaign with Özgür Gündem from May to August 2016 in a bid to draw attention to the Turkish authorities’ long-standing attempts to put pressure on the publication and its reporters. Scores of journalists and writers were arrested for taking part in the campaign; Özgür Gündem was closed by emergency decree in October 2016. In March 2019, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Turkey had violated the right to freedom of expression in systematically bringing terrorism-related criminal cases against Özgür Gündem’s owner between 2004 and 2005 ‘regardless of the actual content of the articles’.
Aslı Erdoğan is a prize-winning author of several books. Her short story Wooden Birds received first prize from Deutsche Welle radio in a 1997 competition; her second novel, Kirmizi Pelerinli Kent (The City in Crimson Cloak), received numerous accolades abroad and has been published in scores of languages. She won several awards, including the 2016 Swedish PEN’s Tucholsky prize, the 2018 Simone de Beauvoir Prize for Human Rights and the Vaclav Havel Library Foundation’s 2019 Disturbing the Peace Award.
PEN International and PEN Centres across the world actively campaigned for Aslı Erdoğan’s release at the time of her arrest. She is an honorary member of several PEN Centres, including PEN Québec and Swedish PEN. For more information about PEN’s actions on behalf of Aslı Erdoğan to date, please click here.
For more information about the state of freedom of expression in Turkey and the authorities’ sustained clampdown on writers and journalists, please click here.