Tuesday, January 18, 2011

TURKEY: Academic Pinar Selek will be tried 9 February; faces 36 years in prison

Pinar Selek, writer, sociologist and founder of the Amargi Women's Solidarity Cooperative, will be tried in Istanbul on 9 February 2011, on charges of which she has already been acquitted twice. If she is found guilty, she faces 36 years in prison. The Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of PEN International is seriously concerned that Selek is being subjected to a campaign of judicial harassment as a means of penalizing her for her long standing support for minority groups in Turkey. We therefore urge the end of this pursuit of Pinar Selek and the dismissal of charges against her.


Selek was accused of involvement in an explosion at an Istanbul market in 1998, a tragedy that led to the deaths of seven people and injuries to 127 others. She was arrested in July 1998 then freed two and a half years later after a team of experts concluded that the explosion had not been caused by a bomb, but by the accidental ignition of a gas cylinder. Despite these findings, the case against Selek and her co-defendants continued and in December 2005 a new trial was opened against her. This trial ended with her acquittal six months later in June 2006.

Commentators believe that the renewed prosecution of Selek is linked to her work as a sociologist researching Kurdish issues in the mid-to-late 1990s, and to contact with the banned Turkish Workers Party (PKK). According to PEN sources, no evidence has been presented that shows Pelek to have been a member of the PKK or to have engaged in violent activities. It is widely believed that she is being pursued through the courts as a means of penalizing her for her legitimate research and commentary. These concerns are intensified by the allegations that Selek, during her imprisonment in 1998-2000, suffered torture under investigation in an attempt to make her confess to the charges.

Vice President of PEN International, Eugene Schoulgin, will be attending the trial. PEN Germany will be presenting a petition at a press conference in Istanbul on the same day. If you wish to sign it, please see www.ps-signup.de

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