On 3 October 2014, representatives from the American PEN Center, Danish PEN, PEN International and PEN Turkey will be present at the 15th High Criminal Court in Istanbul as Turkish sociologist and feminist Pınar Selek faces trial for the fifth time in 16 years over a 1998 explosion that killed seven and injured 100 in the Istanbul Spice Bazaar. Selek has been acquitted of all charges three times (in 2006, 2008 and 2011) due to the testimony of expert witnesses that claimed that the cause of the explosion was a gas leak rather than a bomb, though courts have ordered retrials after each of these acquittals. Her fourth trial resulted in a conviction in January 2013 when Selek was handed an aggravated life sentence, although this conviction was overturned by Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals on 11 June 2014 on procedural grounds. Selek has fled Turkey as a result of the judicial harassment against her and now lives abroad. PEN International calls on the Turkish courts to end Selek’s 16 year ordeal and to acquit her of all charges in the absence of any reliable evidence implicating her in the explosion.
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Please send appeals immediately:
- Protesting the continuing judicial harassment of Pınar Selek after 16 years on trial and multiple acquittals;
- Calling on the Turkish authorities to acquit her of all charges and to drop the arrest warrant against her immediately, enabling her to return to Turkey without fear of arrest;
- Expressing concern that, in the absence of any conclusive or reliable evidence, the trial against Selek contravenes her right to a fair trial as guaranteed under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention on Human and Democratic Rights, to which Turkey is a state party.
Minister of Justice Bekir Bozdağ
Milli Müdafaa Caddesi No: 22
Fax: +90 312 419 33 70
Email: bekir.bozdag [at] tbmm.gov [dot] tr; ozelkalem [at] adalet.gov [dot] tr
If possible, please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Turkey in your country and let us know of any actions you have taken and responses you receive.
Pınar Selek is a Turkish sociologist, writer and feminist known for her work on the rights of vulnerable communities in Turkey. She has written extensively about the plight of women, the poor, street children, the LGBT community and the Kurds in Turkey. She has been published in Turkish, French and German and is one of the founding editors of Amargi, a leading Turkish feminist journal.
Commentators believe that the 16-year 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 Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK). No evidence has been presented that shows Selek 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 penalising her for her legitimate research and commentary. These concerns are intensified by the allegations that Selek, during her imprisonment from 1998-2000, suffered torture under investigation in an attempt to make her confess to the charges.
Selek’s trial has received international attention and various human rights organisations have campaigned on her behalf. She is represented in court by her father Alp Selek, who was imprisoned in the aftermath of the 1980 military coup in Turkey.
PEN representatives to observe trial
PEN has supported Pınar Selek for a number of years in her struggle to clear her name, with centres such as PEN Turkey and German PEN having a long track record of observing her trials as does PEN International Vice-President Eugene Schoulgin.
The 3 October 2014 trial will be attended by Katy Glenn Bass, academic and Deputy Director of Freedom of Expression programs at the American PEN Center; Alev Yaman, PEN International’s Turkey researcher and campaigner; Hüseyin Duygu, Turkish writer and representative of Danish PEN; and Sabri Kuşkonmaz, lawyer and PEN Turkey member who will be part of Selek’s legal team at the trial.