Turkey: Translator Deniz Zarakolu among 45 Released in Istanbul KCK Trials

PEN International is delighted at the news of the release pending trial of writer and translator Deniz Zarakolu after two-and-a-half years in pre-trial detention. Deniz Zarakolu, the son of renowned Turkish publisher and human rights activist Ragıp Zarakolu, was released pending completion of his trial on 27 March 2014 alongside 36 others from the main Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) investigation in Istanbul. A further eight journalists on trial as part of a separate KCK investigation (‘the press wing’) were also released pending trial on the same day.

PEN International welcomes the news of his release and extends its thanks to its members for tirelessly campaigning for Deniz Zarakolu over the last six months.

Deniz Zarakolu is a writer and translator. His published work includes a book on political philosopher Thomas Hobbes and translations of legal texts on the Turkish justice system.

Zarakolu was arrested on 7 October 2011 at his home in Tarlabaşı, Istanbul as part of a wave of arrests into intellectuals with ties to the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP). Other intellectuals arrested during this period include academic Büşra Ersanlı, writer and translator Ayşe Berktay, and Deniz’s father Ragıp Zarakolu.

He was placed under pre-trial detention and 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, which PEN International believes are trumped up charges, as Zarakolu has no material links to terrorism or the plotting of violent acts.

The anti-terror investigation that Zarakolu 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.

Zarakolu 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. The indictment against him primarily references a series of lectures that he gave at BDP ‘political academy’ events on political philosophy and the Kurdish civil rights movement in Turkey.

PEN International remains concerned that the trial against him and numerous other Kurdish and pro-Kurdish writers, journalists, academics and lawyers is set to continue, and the organisation is calling for the dropping of all charges against Zarakolu. PEN International is also continuing to call for the immediate and unconditional release of writer and human rights lawyer Muharrem Erbey who remains in pre-trial detention after almost four-and-a-half years in prison. His next hearing is scheduled for 13 April 2014.