2008: Turkey: Ragip Zarakolu

18th March 2008

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Office of the Prime Minister

Your Excellency

The recent years has seen a series of trials against publisher Ragip Zarakolu. He is charged with “insult” under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code. It seems that around 20 other writers, publishers, journalists and academics are on trial under the same article.
This article is being used to bring a great number of people to the courts solely for having legitimately expressed their opinions, in direct violation of international rights standards.

PEN urges Turkey to bring about an elimination of this undignified article from its criminal code.

International PEN continues to feel deeply concerned about Ragip Zarakolu, and that the 8th April 2008 trial hearing against him may result in imprisonment. PEN has long campaigned against the application of Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code. The application is seen as a clear deviation from the international standards safeguarding the right to freedom of expression to which Turkey is committed.

Once again, Your Excellency, I urge you to look into Ragip Zarakolu’s case and that of others being prosecuted under the same article.

With sincere best wishes

Aase Gjerdrum
Member of Writers in Prison Committee of Norwegian PEN

2008: Turkey: Article 301

February 21st 2008

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Adalet Bakanligi
06659 Ankara

Your Excellency,

PEN International is continuously alarmed by the situation for controversial writers and publishers in Turkey. Reports tell of some improvements, which is of course good news.
Still, we learn of arrests and harassment, threats and trials linked to individuals use of their right to free expression.  Above all, the international society is waiting to hear of amendments to Article 301, which have been announced in December of last year. In the meantime, trials continue against publisher Ragip Zarakolu, and seems to drag on, and another hearing is set for April 8th.

PEN protests the continuing trial against 20 persons, in addition to Ragip Zarakolu, under Article 301.

PEN is also concerned about the situation for writers such as  Perihan Magden and Ece Temelkuran. We urge that there be increased measures taken to bring to justice those that threaten individuals.

Your Excellency, on behalf of PENs Writers in Prison Committee, I urge you to look into these cases and take action against those who prosecute writers who make use of their right to freedom of expression, as laid down in international conventions

With sincere best wishes

Aase Gjerdrum
Member of Writers in Prison Committee, Norwegian PEN

2007: Turkey: Ragip Zarakolu

December 27th 2007

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Office of the Prime Minister

Your Excellency,

PEN International continues to make appeal to Your Excellency to further your efforts in the field of Human Rights, and it is our unfortunate impression that the progress is slow. Turkish human rights monitors are unhappy with the lack of progress in reforms. Reports refer to the systematic use of torure in detention centres, lapses in fair trial practices, restrictions on the use of Kurdish in some areas of civil society, and, the remaining abundance of laws that curtail freedom of expression.

We continue to raise our voice in protest against the trial case against publisher Ragip Zarakolu, which drags into 2008. Mr Zarakolu registers with that there has been a drop in the number of titles banned, compared to 2006. However, responsibility has been transferred to translators. A report lists no less than 43 trials against books and publishers in 2007.

Article 301 in your criminal code is still being used, for instance in the cases against Irfan Ucar and Umur Hozatli, journalist and editor.

PEN protests that the trial against Ragip Zarakolu continues, over two years since it opened. PEN urges an end to the continuing trails against other writers and journalists under article 301. These trials are in contravention of international standards protecting the right to freedom of expression, and to which Turkey is a signatory.
With reference to these internationally recognised conventions we strongly appeal to Your Excellency and to the authorities in general to repeal Article 301 completely and to drop the current cases based on this article.

With sincere best wishes

Aase Gjerdrum
Member of Writers in Prison Committee

Cc: Turkish Embassy in Oslo
Minister of Justice, Ankara

2007: Turkey: Arat Dink

November 20th 2007

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Ergodan

Your Excellency,

Article 301 in Turkish Criminal law

International PEN is disappointed that outright abolition of this article is not under consideration. It has been campaigning for repeal of Article 301 ever since it first entered Turkish law in June 2005. PEN sees no role for laws that penalise insult to the state or state officials in any democracy. It has recently raise concerns about the existence of such laws in several EU countries and has called on its membership of writers in those countries to work towards their annulment.

In this connection we strongly condemn the trial against the son of Hrant Dink. Arat Dink has been given a one year suspended sentence, and several other trials are pending against other writers and journalists under Article 301 and other laws that suppress the right to freedom of expression. Sarkis Serkopyan is another of those persecuted under this law.

We would like to, once again, express our hope that these trials will be dropped in recognition that they are in breach of the international treaties to which Turkey is committed.
We support calls for the repeal of Article 301 in recognition of the fact that it has been used to bring numerous people to the courts solely for having legitimately expressed their opinions, in direct violation of international human rights standards.

As of today, PEN has on its records 21 writers and journalists still on trial for insult to the state!

Sincerely hoping that The Prime Minister will use his high position to further a repeal of Article 301,

Yours sincerely

Aase Gjerdrum
Writers in Prison Committee of Norwegian PEN, translator

Copy to Turkish Embassy in Oslo

2007: Turkey: Hrant Dink

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Office of the Prime Minister
06573 Ankara

Fax: +90 312 417 0476

23 January 2007

Your Excellency,

As Chair of Norwegian PEN Centre, Writers in Prison Committee, I express my deep shock at the murder of Hrant Dink, the editor of the bilingual Armenian-Turkish magazine, Agos who was shot dead outside his offices in Istanbul, and I urge you, Your Excellency, to see to it that the investigation into his murder be impartial and transparent, and that all those responsible for the crime are brought to justice.

I am seriously concerned that the existence and the use of laws that criminalise “insult to freedom Turkishness” are not only in violation of international standards protecting the right to freedom of expression, but that these laws also endanger the lives of those charged.

I call for your urgent reconsideration of insult laws, in particular the repeal of Article 3001 of the Penal Code. Around twenty “301 trials” are still before the courts. In a recent comment on Article 301, The Minister of Foreign Affairs dismissed concerns about the law saying that no-one had been imprisoned under it. This, to date, has indeed been the case, yet, as shown so appallingly by Dink’s murder, the effect of this law is to tar those accused as enemies of the state and to turn them into targets of fanatics

I also call for an end to all prosecutions of writers, editors, publishers and journalists solely for the peaceful practice of their professions.

Confident that you, Your Excellency, will do all in your power to investigate the murder of Hrant Dink, and that you will see to it that those responsible for this crime are brought to justice, I remain,

Yours faithfully,

Elisabet W. Middelthon, Chair Writers in Prison Committee, Norwegian PEN

Copies to:
The Turkish Embassy, Oslo, Norway
The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Oslo, Norway
The Norwegian Embassy, Ankara, Turkey

2006: Turkey: Elif Shafak

September 29th 2006

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Dear Prime Minister, Your Excellency

PEN International welcomes the acquittal on 21 September 2006 of writer Elif Shafak of charges of “Insult” for comments made by fictitious characters in a novel.
And yet, we cannot celebrate the event, thinking of the scores of writers, journalists and publishers that are on trial in Turkey.

Among those listed as being prosecuted or under threat of being prosecuted, are: Hrant Dink, Ipek Calislar, Ragip Zarakolu.

International PEN is deeply alarmed by the continued and growing number of writers, journalists and publishers who are before courts for reasons that are in breach of international human rights conventions. It calls for an end to these trials and for a thorough review of the legislation that penalise freedom of expression as guaranteed under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Turkey has stated its commitment.

We call on the Turkish governments to do all that it can to abide by its commitments to the protection and promotion of freedom of expression.

Thank you, Your Excellency, for reading and listening to this urgent appeal.

Yours sincerely

Aase Gjerdrum
Member of Norwegian PEN WiPC

Cc to The Turkish Embassy in Oslo

Sjette Writers in Prison Committee konferanse

International PEN Writers in Prison Committee meets in Istanbul. Challenges Insult Laws


Over 50 writers, editors and publishers from 23 countries gathered in Istanbul this week for the 6th Writers in Prison Committee conference of International PEN, the worldwide association of writers. At meetings focusing on PEN’s global program, the members planned the launch of a campaign against insult and criminal defamation laws under which writers and journalists are imprisoned worldwide, including under Article 301 in Turkey.

Other key issues discussed included the recent uproar over Danish cartoons, impunity, the role of internet service providers in offering information on writers, especially in China, and the pressure by the Russian government on Russian PEN.

Hosted by the Turkish Centre of International PEN March 2-4, 2006, the PEN Conference also featured a panel on «Freedom of Expression in Turkey Today» with Fatih Tas, owner of Aram Publishing House, Oya Aydin, attorney, Ismet Berkan, editor-in-chief of Radikal and Fikret Ilkiz, attorney.

Despite the recent dismissal of the case against novelist Orhan Pamuk and the progress noted in Turkey, where no writer is currently in prison, PEN members expressed concern about the large number of trials against writers and journalists accused of «insult.»

At the conference the delegates also confirmed action on behalf of the seven editors who have been detained in Algeria, Jordan, and Yemen for republishing the cartoons originally published in a Danish newspaper depicting the Prophet Mohammed. Members confirmed their commitment to work for mutual respect among peoples, at the same time insisting on the principle of freedom of expression and denouncing violence as a censor.

The conference brought colleagues from around the world together who work on cases of writers imprisoned, threatened and sometimes killed because of their writing. PEN records over 1000 cases worldwide and works actively on 150-200 of these cases.

«What is important about International PEN is that it links authors, editors and publishers from all over the world in debates and discussions which lead to a better understanding of each other. We are all worrying that the situation for freedom of expression is getting worse globally so we need solidarity now more than ever,» said Muge Sokmen, Chair of the Writers in Prison Committee for Turkish PEN.

«One of the greatest values of International PEN’s Writers in Prison Committee is to provide a framework to discuss issues, to come to solutions, and to leave room for various points of view without compromising our first and foremost goal of promoting freedom of expression,» said Karin Clark, Chair of International PEN’s Writers in Prison Committee.

«PEN was founded on the principles of tolerance, respect among people, and  the free transmission of ideas, even those that may offend. Freedom of expression is the foundation of free societies,» said Joanne Leedom-Ackerman, International Secretary of International PEN.


International PEN and the Writers in Prison Committee

International PEN, the worldwide association of writers with 141 Centres in 99 Countries, exists to promote friendship and intellectual co-operation among writers everywhere, to fight for freedom of expression and represent the conscience of world literature.

The Writers in Prison Committee works on behalf of persecuted writers worldwide and monitors the cases of writers who have been imprisoned, tortured, threatened, attacked and killed for the peaceful practice of their professions. The WiPC campaigns to end these attacks and oppose suppression of freedom of expression wherever it occurs.

For a selection of statements from PEN Centres on the Danish cartoons issue please visit http://www.pen.org/page.php/prmID/1204

Fjerde Istanbulmøte om ytringsfrihet

4th Gathering in Istanbul for Freedom of Expression


The 4th Gathering in Istanbul for Freedom of Expression took place between 19-22 November. 23 guests from 14 countries contributed. The activities were organised in different locations in Istanbul. The gathering was supported by “The Association of Freedom of Expression”, International PEN, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Freemuse and Article 19. The 5th G. was also supported by various municipalities. The Central Municipality of Istanbul played a leading role and local municipalities of Beyoðlu, Beykoz, Pendik, Sarýyer and Üsküdar have opened their resources and facilities to NGOs and hosted dinners for the guests. Bilgi University, Association of Lawyers, Human Rights Association Istanbul Branch, Amnesty International TR Section and The Initiative For Freedom of Expression have all organised events and contributed to the Gathering.


Voltaire’s birthday
Voltaire’s 311th. birthday was celebrated at Tevfik Fikret museum on 20 November. Famous poet Tevfik Fikret’s house on the hills of Boshporoush (called “Asiyan” which means “birds’ nest”) is a literary museum today. The guests of the 4th. Gathering met in the garden of the museum where Tevfik’s tomb is placed extending their respect to the memory of all those  writers and phylosophers who paid for freedom of expression in the past from Nazým Hikmet to Mehmet Akif. Voltaire’s birthday was celebrated with a birthday cake with 311 candles. Fikret and Akif who did not agree and had a lot of debates at the time were remembered side by side on Voltaire’s birthday.

Forum at Bilgi University
New restrictions and threats against freedom of expression introduced in the name of fighting terror were discussed at a forum organised at Bilgi University on 21 November, “The Future of Freedom of Expression after 9/11”. Writers Orhan Pamuk and Mehmed Uzun took part in the discussion. American intellectual Noam Chomsky sent a video message in which he said that Turkey had its share of human rights violations but “People in Turkey continiue to fight so Europe has a lot to learn from Turkey».

Prof. Turgut Tarhanlý chaired the meeting, speakers included Niloufer Bhagwat, Jonathan Sugden, O.Uygun, Corrine Kumar, Bill Strachan, Eva Norstörm, Yusuf Alataþ, Levent Korkut, Ayþe Erzan, Eugene Schoulgin, Klaus Slavensky, Vassilis Vassilikos, Murathan Mungan, Tété-Michel Kpomassie, Fadhila Chebbi, Alexis Krikorian, Mete Çubukçu, Ömer Madra, Chenjerai Hove, Prof. Jeloul Azurra, Agnes Callamard, Aydýn Engin.

«To Freedom… » (Special gala for Guest Writers)
P.E.N. Turkey Center organised an event, supported by Beyoðlu municipality where the guests of the 4th. Gathering were introduced. The event took place on Monday 21 November 2005, at Muammer Karaca Theater. Writer Tété Michel Kpomassie from Togo, writer Eugene Schoulgin (Norway), Mehmed Uzun (Kurdish writer based in Sweden), writer Chenjerai Hove (Zimbabwe), writer prof. Jaloul Azzouna and poet Ms. Fadhila Chebbi (Tunisia), Iranian writer Ms. Fatemeh Sejadi and the writer of unforgettable novel “Z”  Vassilis Vassilikos made speeches and video clips were screened. Extracts from the films “Z”, “Missing” and “The Way” were screened. Muammer Ketencoðlu and Iranian singer Ms. Mahsa Vahdat performed songs. After a video message of Harold Pinter, New Generation Theater (Mehmet Ergen) presented a part of Pinter’s play “Mountain Language”. PEN Chairman Vecdi Sayar did the opening speech and translations, actor Cüneyt Türel and acctress Tilbe Saran presented the event in two languages.Ragýp Zarakolu’s trials and the press statement of the guests
The guests attended the trials of publisher Zarakolu for publishing two books on Armenian tragedy by the writers Jerjian and Sakayan. The trials were at Sultanahmet 2nd. Criminal Court of First Instance on 22 November. The public prosecutor asked the court to penalise Zarakolu for Sakayan’s book under the Penal Code article 301.The guests talking to journalist afterwards said that they observed that the restrictions on freedom of expression remained. Ragýp Zarakolu said «This is also a fight to broaden the limits of freedom of expression”. HRW reporter for Turkey Jonathan Sugden said «The court could have ruled for acquittal under the article 10 of European Convention of Human Rights». The next hearing will be on 15 February 2006.

23 observers from 14 countries made a joint statement after the case. At the press conference (at Nazým Hikmet Foundation), Executive Member of PEN International, writer Eugene Schoulgin and representative of International Publishers Association Alexis Krikorian were present. The joint statement read:

We are sorry that todays court decisions were not acquittals. In 2004 Turkish Grand National Assembly amending the Constitution, decided that the European Convention of Human Rights to be applicable in domestic legislation. The article 10 of the Convention does not allow trials such as Ragýp Zarakolu’s where he was asked to be imprisoned for 6 years. Therefore it is up to the courts to decide acquittal in such cases.

Increasing nýmber of freedom of expression cases is worrying. We invite all prosecutors and the judicial bodies to implement the statements of the Parliament and the government that the freedom of expression would be respected.

Round table:
“Freedom of Expression in Turkey. What have we gained so far?”
The problems of freedom of expression in Turkey was discussed. The discussion was organised by PEN Turkey Center on 22 November in Muammer Karaca Theatre. The meeting was chaired by Nadire Mater and speakers included Metin Celal, Erol Önderoglu, Fethiye Çetin, Nadire Mater, Fikret Ýlkiz, Ferhat Tunç, Emin Karaca, Ragip Zarakolu, Enis Batur. The meeting was supported by Beyoglu municipality.

Common Denominator (Ortak Payda) meetings

Last meetings of «Ortak Payda» in 2005 took place on 19 and 20 November. Contributors from 14 cities and Ortak Payda Working Group came together and evaluated the conclusions of last years meetings which took place in 15 districts. The final reports will be published as a booklet «Ortak Payda 2005» and 550 copies of it will be sent to the Parliament. It will be distributed to the press and sold with a symbolic price.

Panel Discussion of the Association of Members of Legal Profession (Üsküdar borough)
The Association of Members of Legal Profession organised a panel discussion on “The legal and social dimensions of Freedom of Expression” which took place on 19 November in Çamlica Cultural Center. Law. Muhammed Emin Özkan chaired the meeting. Lecturer Dr. Hakan Hakeri (Selçuk Uni.), assistant lecturer Dr. Bekir Berat Özipek (Hacettepe Üni.), Nabi Yaðcý (journalist, writer) were among the speakers. Üsküdar municipality allocated the Cultural Center as venue.

Children’s Festival (Beykoz borough)
“I am a kid! I think, I play” a chain of activities took place in Beykoz Municipality Cultural Center on 20 November. Bengi Su Dönmez’s (aged 13) film “Do not step on it!” was screened, art workshops were organised. Amnesty International Turkey Center organised the event with support from Beykoz municipality and «Universal Children’s Rights, Local authorities » contributed.Panel Discussion: “Children are speaking” (Pendik borough)
Another activity on 20 November World Children’s Day was a panel discussion “Children are Speaking” organised by Human Rights Association Istanbul branch with the support of Pendik local council. Buses were organised to pick children from 7 different localisities in Istanbul with participation of other local municipalities. The meeting was chaired by children, speakers were children, audience were made up of children. Children discussed the restrictions preventing them from expressing themselves freely at home, at school and in society.List of the guests of “The 4th Gathering in Istanbul for Freedom of Expression

Agnes Callamard, GB, ARTICLE 19 (Executive Director)
Alexis Krikorian, Switzerland, IPA (International Publishers’ Association)
Bill Strachan, USA, AAP (Association of American Publishers)
Chenjerai Hove, Zimbabwe, Writer
Corrine Kumar, India, Sociolog
Eugene Schoulgin, Norway, Writer, International PEN (Board Member)
Eva Norstörm, Denmark, Euromed HR Net (Europe Mediteranean HR Network)
Fadhila Chebbi, Tunisia, Poet
Fatemeh Sajadi, Iran, Writer, Swedish PEN member
Hal Fessenden, USA, AAP (Association of American Publishers)
Prof. Jeloul Azzura, Tunisia, Writer
Jonathan Sugden, GB, Human Rights Watch Turkey Reporter
Kemal Kirac, Germany, Federation of  Immigrant Associations (Gen. Secretary)
Kjell Olaf Jensen, Norway, Norwegian PEN President
Klaus Slavensky, Denmark, FREEMUSE (The World Forum on Music and Censorship)
Mahsa Vahdat, Iran, Singer
Mehmed Uzun, Sweden, Writer, Swedish PEN member
Niloufer Bhagwat. India, Lawyer
Ole Gunnar Solheim, Norway, Norwegian PEN
Ronald Boss, Holland, Dutch PEN
Terry Carlbom, Sweden, Swedish PEN
Tété-Michel Kpomassie, Togo, Writer, French PEN member
Vassilis Vassilikos, Greece, Writer, former Permanent Representative of Greece at UNESCO

MESSAGES:  Peter Benenson, Arthur Miller, Joan Baez, Prof. Noam Chomsky, Harold Pinter

Turkish authorities reverse previous decision in Ayaz Khoshyawashan case


Turkish authorities reverse previous decision in Ayaz Khoshyawashan case
Norwegian PEN look forward to welcoming Oslo´s new City of Asylum writer.

Iranian-Kurdish poet Ayaz Khoshyawashan, invited to Norway by Oslo city authorities as the citys new City of Asylum writer, was arrested on May 2. by Turkish security police in order to be returned to Iran.  The alleged reason was that he had travelled in and out of Turkey with false identity papers.

Norwegian PEN learned about the arrest the same day and immediately contacted the Norwegian Ministry of foreign Affairs, the ambassador for the European Union and  UNHCR in Ankara and International PEN.  Thanks to the action from all parts involved, among them several PEN-centres throughout the world who have approached the Turkish embassies in their respective countries, the Turkish security police have now admitted that Khoshyawashan has done nothing wrong.

Khoshyawashan is now under UN-protection.  A temporary passport with a visa to Norway will be issued shortly by the embassy in Ankara.  The Turkish refugee police have confirmed that, as soon as the passport with the visa has been issued, they will see to it that relevant state authorities provide him with permission to leave Turkey.  According to our sources this paperwork will take up to one month.

Oslo, 9. May 2005

The new Cities of Asylum-writer in Oslo denied passage out of Turkey

The new Cities of Asylum-writer in Oslo denied passage out of Turkey

Iranian-Kurdish poet Ayaz Khoshyawashan has been invited by Norwegian authorities as the new Cities of Asylum-writer in Oslo, but Turkish authorities denies him passage out of Turkey.

Ayaz Khoshyawashan is among the approximately 1.200 Iranian refugees who have arrived in Turkey after a temporary stay in Iraq.  According to the Turkish authorities, these refugees have to return to Iraq, but given the current situation in that country they have been granted temporary permission to stay in Turkey.  The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is in dialogue with the Turkish authorities, but these do not permit the UNHCR to administer placement of the refugees to other countries, fearing a situation where an increasing number of Iranian refugees will use Turkey as a transit country.

UNHCR has now asked Turkish authorities to be more flexible, especially concerning those refugees who will put themselves in danger by returning to Iraq and those who have medical- or health problems that cannot be treated in Turkey.  The UNHCR has also asked for special treatment for those refugees who have secured their residence permit outside Turkey, which is the case for Ayaz Khoshyawashan.

Norwegian PEN finds it absurd that a refugee, invited to stay in Oslo as a City of Asylum-writer by the authorities and thus having secured permanent residency in Norway, is not allowed to leave Turkey.  In connection with the state visit of Turkish PM Erdogan this week, we ask Norwegian media to question the Turkish prime minister about this special case.

Prior to his visit Norwegian PEN has informed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Norwegian Embassy in Ankara as well as the Mayor of Oslo about the situation and asked that PM Erdogan be informed.

Oslo, 12. April 2005