Ragip Zarakolu arrested, 28 October 2011

The Kurdish Institute, the International Publishers Association, and International PEN give their responses to the arrests of Ragip Zarakolu and Busra Ersnli, on 28 October 2011, below. You can also find Peace in Kurdistan Campaign’s statement on the arrests here.

The Kurdish Institute: Zarakolu and Ersanli arrested by court

A Turkish court on Tuesday decided to put under arrest 44 people, including Publisher Ragip Zarakolu and Prof. Busra Ersanli, on charges of membership in  the so-called KCK (Union of Kurdistan Communities). They were among about 50 suspects detained over the weekend in a crackdown on the same charges.

After the interrogation at the police, all 50 persons were taken to the Istanbul Courthouse on Monday morning. The prosecutor decided to take 47 of them to court with the demand to arrest them.

According to lawyer Ercan Kanar, they were interrogated by 12 different prosecutors.

The interrogation was carried out for more than one day under torture-like conditions without sleeping. At the waiting room, 47 detainees had to share only few chairs in turn.

Ninety-six people were arrested as part of another operation against the KCK in İstanbul earlier this month.

The KCK investigation started in December 2009 and a large number of Kurdish politicians, including several officials from the BDP, have been detained as part of the case since then.

The suspects have been accused of various crimes, including membership in a terrorist organization, aiding and abetting a terrorist organization and attempting to destroy the country’s unity and integrity. The suspects include mayors and municipal officials from the BDP, which has said the investigation is the government’s method of suppressing its politicians, denying any links between its deputies and terrorist organizations.

Protests in front of the courthouse

While academic Ersanlı and human rights defender Zarakolu gave their statements at the Beşiktaş (Istanbul) Courthouse, hundreds of people protested the latest wave of police custodies in front of the building.

The demonstrators had lots of renowned supporters such as Kurdish politician Sebahat Tuncel, columnist Yıldırım Türker, widow of slain Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, Rakel Dink; journalist Özgür Mumcu, academic Koray Çalışkan, Gencay Gürsoy, Necmiye Alpay, Celalettin Can, President of the Press Institute Association Ferai Tınç, Provincial Chairman of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) Oğuz Kaan Salıcı, Chair of the Freedom and Solidarity Party (ÖDP) Alper Taş and lawyer İbrahim Çiçek on behalf of the People’s Democracy Congress. Moreover, many of Ersanlı’s students joined the protest. They said that they were going to persevere in front of the courthouse until a decision about the people in custody would have been taken.

The group of protestors held Ersanlı’s book entitled “Power and History” and chanted slogans like “Teacher Büşra is not alone”, “Long live the people’s brotherhood”, “We are all Kurds, we are all KCK members” or “Peace cannot be struck with handcuffs”.

Meanwhile, a large group of Turkish intellectuals, mainly academics, have launched a petition campaign to protest the detention of Professor Ersanlı and to call for her release. A joint statement by the group said the detention of Ersanlı, who has for years been working for sustainable peace and a new constitution in Turkey, led to outrage among all circles in the country that believe in the democratic state of law.

“The detention of Professor Büşra Ersanlı is a heavy blow dealt to Turkey’s efforts towards a real democracy with equality, peace, social justice and academic and political freedoms. We demand the immediate release of Professor Büşra Ersanlı and all other jailed politicians, academics and journalists who work for peace, democratic rights and freedoms in our country. The detention and arrest of people without any concrete and serious evidence under the primitive mentality of ‘though crimes’ is against human rights,” the statement said.

Among the intellectuals who have signed the joint statement are Ahmet İnsel, Ali Bayramoğlu, Cengiz Aktar, Cengiz Çandar, Hülya Gülbahar, Murat Belge, Mithat Sancar, Oral Çalışlar, Ümit Cizre, Baskın Oran, Fuat Keyman and Yaşar Kemal.

IPA: Turkish Freedom to Publish Hero Jailed

Publisher Ragıp Zarakolu, recipient of the 2008 IPA Freedom to Publish Prize, was arrested on Friday, 28 October 2011 in Istanbul. The 14th High Criminal Court in Beşiktaş, Istanbul decided earlier today, following a 28-hour long hearing, to incarcerate the man whom many view as Turkey’s most prominent freedom of expression and minority rights activist. In particular, he is being accused of being a member of an illegal organisation under the anti-terror legislation. IPA considers his imprisonment to be in violation of Turkey’s international treaty obligations.  IPA therefore demands that he be released immediately until the trial begins.

Ragıp Zarakolu is widely considered as a freedom to publish hero. One of Ragıp Zarakolu’s son, Deniz Zarakolu, was also arrested on 2 October 2011 after having lectured on political philosophy at the (legal) BDP party political science academy, and has been detained since at the Edirne F-type (high security) prison. These arrests are part of a larger crackdown initiated in 2009 and still on-going against Kurdish political parties. IPA is concerned that Ragıp and Deniz Zarakolu’s imprisonment, alongside several other writers and intellectuals like Professor Büşra Ersanlı, is in violation of Turkey’s obligations under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

Says Bjørn Smith-Simonsen, Chair of IPA’s Freedom to Publish Committee (FTPC): “October is an extremely sad month for freedom to publish in Turkey and worldwide. Ragıp Zarakolu is the pride of publishing. He is the limelight of freedom to publish in Turkey. He is a tireless human and minority rights activist. Up to now, his quest for truth, reconciliation and justice has been unstoppable. This man does not belong to prison, he deserves a Nobel Prize. We demand that Ragıp Zarakolu, the recipient of IPA’s Freedom to Publish Prize be released immediately. The trial is likely to begin in a year’s time only. Ragıp Zarakolu’s health is not good. We fear that he will not stand his detention conditions in the terrible F-type (high security) prisons. This is an additional reason for the Turkish authorities to show compassion and release him immediately”.

Jens Bammel, IPA’s Secretary General, adds: “As the EU Commission’s 2011 Turkey Progress report stresses, legal amendments to the Turkish anti-terror legislation are very much needed to comply with various rulings of the European Court of Human Rights. We too have witnessed in the last two years an increasing use of the anti-terror legislation to stifle freedom to publish in Turkey. On behalf of the International Publishing community, I will seek to meet as soon as possible the Permanent Representative of Turkey to the United Nations Office in Geneva[1] to raise our serious concerns with the Turkish authorities, urging his government to release publisher Zarakolu immediately. Already in March the authorities had condemned Zarakolu for spreading propaganda under the anti-terror legislation. Now they go one step further in accusing him of being a member of an illegal organisation. The rule of law and the principles of freedom of expression must prevail”.


More about Ragıp Zarakolu:

Ragıp Zarakolu is a Turkish publisher born in 1948. Since starting his publishing house Belge with his wife Ayşe Nur in 1977, he has been subjected to harassment from the Turkish authorities. Ragıp Zarakolu refused to abandon his campaign for freedom of thought, striving “for an attitude of respect for different thoughts and cultures to become widespread in Turkey”. Over the years, the charges brought by the Turkish authorities against Ragıp Zarakolu and his wife resulted in imprisonment, confiscation and destruction of books, and the imposition of heavy fines, endangering the survival of the Belge publishing house. Ragıp Zarakolu is the chairperson of the Freedom to Publish Committee of the Turkish Publishers Association (TPA/TYB). He is also, among others, a founding member of the Turkish Human Rights Association.

Throughout his publishing career Ragıp Zarakolu has been singled out by the conservative elements of the judiciary because of his decades of struggle for freedom of expression, and particularly his promotion of minority rights and his quest for truth and justice.  Ragıp Zarakolu’s work as a publisher and his wholehearted support of freedom to publish have often brought him into conflict with the authorities and endangered his personal safety. His publishing house Belge was fire bombed in the mid-1990s. Despite the string of attacks, he has persistently continued to tackle contentious issues, thus encouraging healthy debate and democratization in Turkey.

Throughout his life, Ragıp Zarakolu has been subjected to a series of long, time-consuming and expensive court hearings for shedding light on controversial issues. A publisher in the courts is a publisher who spends time and money away from his work. Like a terrible disease, such procedures can drain time and energy. The court case in itself becomes the punishment for the publisher.

Ragıp Zarakolu, as recently as March 2011, was condemned by an Istanbul court to paying a TL 16,660 (€ 8,330) fine for publishing N. Mehmet Güler’s “KCK File / Global State and Kurds without State”. N. Mehmet Güler was also condemned to a suspended 15-month prison sentence. Both Zarakolu and Güler were accused under article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Law of “spreading propaganda” for an illegal organization, the banned Kurdish Workers Party (PKK).  The book, which was banned immediately after its release at the Diyarbakir Book Fair in May 2010, remains banned. IPA had condemned their convictions and called for their acquittal when appeal time would come.

More about Freedom to Publish in Turkey:

Following the 25 October 2011 ruling of the European Court of Human Rights in Altuğ Taner Akçam v. Turkey concluding that Article 301 TPC as amended in 2008 still violates Article 10 of the ECHR, IPA supports its Turkish member’s request that Article 301 be repealed. Following the recent explosion of obscenity cases under Article 226 TPC[2], IPA also supports its Turkish member’s request that the Prime Ministerial Board for the Protection of Children from Harmful Publications be disbanded as it insists on banning literature for adults, which the European Court of Human Rights has described as “belonging to the European literary heritage”.

IPA further notes with concern the ruling made by Istanbul’s 14th High Criminal Court in August 2011 that the printer of a book be considered “like its author”, condemning the owner of Berdan Printing House, Sadik Daşdöğen, to a 9-month prison sentence in absentia for printing a book that included interviews of Abdhullah Öcalan. Sadik Daşdöğen was convicted of “spreading propaganda for an illegal organisation”. The publishers had already opposed such a move in the early 1980s. If the printers were held responsible for the books they print, the consequences on freedom of expression and freedom to publish in Turkey could be severe.

To curb the flow of freedom of expression and freedom to publish trials in Turkey, Turkish

legislation (Articles 125, 216, 301 […] TPC, Law 5816, Anti-terror legislation, etc.) and practice should be amended to meet international standards, including the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, as Turkey was reminded of by its peers when it came under review during the 8th Session of the Universal Periodical Review (UPR) of the UN Human Rights Council in May 2010 in Geneva. To see the joint submission on Turkey to the UPR Working Group of IPA, PEN International and Index on Censorship, please go to:


More about IPA:

The International Publishers Association (IPA) is the global non-governmental organisation representing all aspects of book and journal publishing worldwide. Established in 1896, IPA’s mission is to promote and protect publishing and to raise awareness for publishing as a force for cultural and political advancement worldwide. IPA is an industry association with a human rights mandate. IPA currently has 65 member associations in 53 countries.

For further information, please contact:

Alexis Krikorian
Director, FTP

PEN International’s Campaign

The arrest this weekend of publisher Ragip Zarakolu, one of Turkey’s most prominent freedom of expression and minority rights activists and a leading member of PEN Turkey is greeted with alarm and concern by PEN International. Arrested at the same time was Professor Büsra Ersanli, of the faculty of Political Science at Marmara University. The arrests are part of a larger crackdown initiated in 2009 and still ongoing against Kurdish political parties. PEN is concerned that Zarakolu and Ersanli, alongside several other writers and journalists also detained under this crackdown, are held in denial of their rights to peaceful freedom of expression and association.

Ragip Zarakolu and Professor Büsra Ersanli were arrested on 28 October 2011. Forty one people had also been arrested around the same time under what is known as the Democratic Society Congress (Koma Civaken Kurdistan – KCK) operation that has been under way since 2009 leading to several hundred, some say over 1,000, arrests and trials. The KCK is seen as its civil/political wing front for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), and thus also illegal.

Human rights groups monitoring the operation have reported concerns over a number of areas including lengthy pre-trial detention without bail (some have been held pending trial since the start of the operation in April 2009), that the charges may be politically motivated, and that fair trial standards are being ignored. Trade union and human rights activists, mayors and local politicians are among those arrested. For more on the KCK arrests read a report by the Kurdistan Human Rights Project..

Among the organisations being linked to the KCK is the Peace and Democracy Party (Barish ve Demokrasi Partisi – BDP). Thirty BDP representatives took their seats in the Turkish parliament on 1 October, among them longstanding Kurdish rights activist, Leyla Zana, a former PEN case. The BDP was created after the Democratic Society Party (DTP) was forcibly closed down in 2009 on accusation of affiliation to the PKK. The BDP has made it clear that is not affiliated to the PKK and that it does not influence it political policy. Despite this, BDP and former DTP members have been arrested and harassed. Some activists claim that over 1,000 have been arrested on charges ranging from speaking Kurdish, making statements critical of the government, as well as having links to the KCK. The United Nations High Commission on Refugees has recently issued an analysis of the BDP and events since its formation in early 2010.


Professor Büsra Ersanli is an academic based at Istanbul’s Marmara university’s  Faculty of Political Science and International Relations. She is an expert on constitutional law and at the time of her arrest was working with the BDP’s Constitutional Commission.

Ragip Zarakolu is a well known political activist who has been fighting for freedom of expression in Turkey for over 30 years, publishing books on issues such as minority and human rights. As one of the 50 writers chosen to represent the struggle for freedom of expression since 1960 for the Writers in Prison Committee’s 50th Anniversary Campaign – Because Writers Speak Their Minds. In the days running up to his arrest, he had been campaigning for the release of his son, Deniz Zarakolu, who had been arrested three weeks earlier on 7 October, also under the KCK operation. Deniz is a PhD student of political thought and has translated academic works including Thomas Hobbes’ De Cive. See PEN alert.

Among the early KCK operation arrests was Muharrem Erbey, lawyer, writer and Turkey PEN member, arrested in December 2009, who is still detained, and his trial is underway. Representatives from PEN Centres have observed his trial, See alert.

Please send appeals:

Expressing alarm at the arrests of Ragip Zarakolu, Professor Büsra Ersanli and Deniz Zarakolu, as well as the continued detention of Muharrem Erbey, and other writers and journalists accused for their affiliation with Kurdish political parties.

Referring to concerns that the arrests flout international standards protecting the rights to freedom of expression and association as guaranteed by both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the European Convention on Human and Democratic Rights, to which Turkey is a signatory.

Raising concerns that the trial are politically biased and do not conform to fair trial standards, and seeking assurances that these concerns are addressed as a matter of urgency.

Send appeals to:

Mr Sadullah Ergin
Minister of Justice
06669 Kizilay
Fax: 00 90 312 419 3370
Also to the Turkish ambassador in your country.

Publisher and Human Rights Defender Ragip Zarakolu Detained <http://www.info-turk.be/398.htm#Publisher>
62 Journalists and Writers in Turkish Prisons during Sacrifice Holiday <http://www.info-turk.be/398.htm#Writers>