PEN International horrified over arrest of prominent Turkish Writer

Added: November 2011 to Network News

Ragip-Zarakolu-007_1.jpgWriter, academic and publisher Ragip Zarakolu was arrested on 29 October 2011 in Turkey. Zarakolu has been formally charged with “membership of an illegal organisation”, under the country's anti-terrorism laws. He is detained alongside over 40 other opposition activists, including writer and academic Professor Büşra Ersanlı. The international literary community is demanding the immediate release of Ragip Zarakolu.

Zarakolu is the director of Belge Publishing House, a member of Turkish PEN and chair of Turkey's Freedom to Publish Committee. According to an article published in The Guardian Zarakolu has since the founding of Belge Publishing House in 1977 "(...) tested publishing restrictions in Turkey (...) by releasing controversial books from Armenian, Greek and Kurdish authors in Turkish editions, including books documenting the Armenian genocide."  

Zarakolu has released an open letter from prison on 2 November 2011 through his lawyer, reprinted below:
My arrest and the accusations of being a member of an illegal organisation are part of a campaign to intimidate all intellectuals and democrats living in Turkey and, more specifically, to isolate Kurds.
The police forces that searched my home found nothing more than what you would normally find in a writer’s home and confiscated these items as ‘evidence’.
 Among these items were Habiba by Ender Öndeş, a book that is published and freely sold in Turkey, the second volume of Doğan Özgüden’s Vatansız Gazeteciler (Stateless Journalists), Barış Süreci (Peace Process) by Yüksel Genç, notes prepared for the publication of Alman Belgelerinde Ermeni Soykırımı (The Armenian Genocide according to German Sources), a short piece I had prepared for the back cover of former CHP (Republican People’s Party) MP Sırrı Özbek'’s latest book and a draft of a work called Ermeni Sözlü Tarih Çalışması (Armenian Oral History Project).
The government must give an explanation for why I was arrested only a week before I was due to travel to a conference in Berlin and, from there, to conferences at Colgate University (USA) and in Los Angeles and Michigan.
Under custody, I was deprived of all of my bank and credit cards, which are being kept by the authorities.
It is yet unclear when I will be able to exercise my right to trial, and it is evident that this state of affairs may last for months.
I have not been asked a single question regarding the organisation I am accused of being a member of; rather, I have only been pressed on works that I have written or edited, speeches I have given, and free and public meetings I have attended.
I believe that it is time to show a collective opposition to this wave of arrests, which has become a campaign of mass lynching, and that all moves by the authorities that go against the law and principles of due legal process must now cease.
With my greetings and my regards,
Ragip Zarakolu

For more information about Zarakolu, his arrest and background please see here for an article on Zarakolu's arrest in The Guardian and information about his case and suggested actions on PEN International's website here.

Photo from The Guardian. 

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