Büsra Ersanli Freed Pending Trial

Historians in the News

From the day that the prosecutor ruled my detention, until now, everything has been upside down. I am speechless and now going back to Silivri [prison] to pack my bag – Büsra Ersanli

Büsra Erslanli, university professor and political scientist, was among 16 people freed on 13 July on the closure of the first hearing of the Union of Communities in Kurdistan (Koma Civaken Kurdistan – KCK) case held in a court in Silivri prison, outside Istanbul. However the trial continues, resuming on 1 October, and it is likely to go on for some months. While welcoming Ersanli’s release, PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee remains concerned that writers, academics and journalists charged in this case are being tried in violation of their rights to non-violent freedom of expression and association. These are principles to which the Turkish government is committed as a signatory to the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the European Convention on Human Rights.

Over 200 people are being tried in the KCK trial, half of whom remain in prison. Among the defendants are writers, journalists and academics. These include publisher and human rights activist, Ragıp Zarakolu; university professor and political scientist, Büşra Ersanlı; and translator and academic, Ayşe Berktay. The three face sentences of 7.5 to 22.5 years in prison if found guilty as charged under the Anti Terror Law (ATL).

Ragip Zarakolu, who has had a long history of legal battles with the Turkish authorities for his publications, is accused of “aiding and abetting an illegal organisation.” Ersanlı, who has written on minority rights in Turkey and has provided advice on constitutional issues to the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), is accused of “leadership of an illegal organisation.” Berktay, an academic and translator specialising in Kurdish issues, is accused of taking part in KCK’s “overseas operations” through her attendance at events, such as the World Social Forum and the European Network for Peace and Human Rights. All three were arrested in October 2011. Zarakolu was released pending trial in April 2012; Berktay remains detained. Also still in prison in this case is Deniz Zarakolu, an academic and translator, and son of Ragip Zarakolu.

For more information on these cases and the KCK trial please see the PEN International website.

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