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Turkey: PEN member & writer released from prison, trial continues

Tuesday 10 January 2017 - 12:00am


On 29 December 2016, writer, activist and PEN member Aslı Erdoğan was released from prison, after spending 132 days behind bars. Erdoğan was arrested in August when her home was raided and she was detained on for membership of a terrorist organization and ‘undermining national unity’.

Despite her release, Erdoğan faces an uncertain fate, as charges of ‘membership to a terrorist organization’ and ‘making terrorist propaganda’ against her remain. She could still face up to seven years in prison. PEN International believes that the charges against her are solely in connection with her peaceful exercise to her right to freedom of expression and calls on the Turkish authorities to drop them immediately and unconditionally. PEN also reiterates its call for protection of free expression and human rights, particularly during the declared state of emergency.

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Send appeals to the Turkish authorities:

  • Urging them to drop all charges against Aslı Erdoğan immediately and unconditionally, and lift the travel ban imposed on her;
  • Calling for all detained writers and journalists to have access to lawyers from the time of arrest and to be released if they are not to be charged with a criminal offence and tried promptly in accordance with international fair trial standards;
  • Calling on them not to use the state of emergency to crack down on peaceful dissent, civil society, media and education.

Please send appeals reiterating PEN’s calls to:

Minister of Justice Bekir Bozdağ
Milli Müdafaa Caddesi No: 22
06659, Kızılay
Ankara, Turkey
Fax: +90 312 419 33 70
Twitter: @bybekirbozdag

Binali Yıldırım
Çankaya Mah. Ziaur Rahman

Cad. Çankaya / Ankara
Tel: (+90 312) 403 50 00
Fax: (+90 312) 422 10 00

Copies to:

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
Cumhurbaşkanlığı Külliyesi
06560 Beştepe-Ankara
Tel : (+90 312) 525 55 55
Fax : (+90 312) 525 58 31
Email: receptayyip.Erdoğ
Twitter: @RT_Erdoğan

Please copy your appeals to the Embassy of Turkey in your country.  A list of embassies can be found here.

Please send us copies of your letters or information about other activities on behalf of Asli Erdoğan and of any responses received.


Send messages and postcards of solidarity and support to Aslı Erdoğan to Aurelia Dondo at PEN International at

Consider adopting Aslı Erdoğan as an Honorary Member of your Centre.  Details of how to campaign for honorary members may be found in the Writers in Prison Committee Handbook, available here.


PEN members are encouraged to publish articles and opinion pieces in your national or local press highlighting the case of Aslı Erdoğan and the situation of freedom of expression in Turkey. Please also consider adopting her as an honorary member of your Centre.


Erdoğan was detained with more than 20 other journalists and employees from Özgür Gündem, a pro-Kurdish opposition daily, which was shut down by decree as part of the state of emergency in the country following the failed coup of 15 July 2016.

Erdoğan, who serves as an advisory board member and columnist in the paper, was sent to a jail in Istanbul on preliminary charges of ‘membership of a terrorist organisation’ and ‘undermining national unity.’ Erdoğan’s arrest comes amid heightened concerns for rights and freedoms following last month’s failed coup.

While recognizing the right of the Turkish authorities to bring those responsible for crimes during the attempted coup to justice, PEN International calls on the Turkish authorities to safeguard freedom of expression, human rights and respect their obligations under international law during the declared state of emergency and to release all journalists and writers held solely in connection with their peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression, as appears to be the case with Aslı Erdoğan.

Aslı Erdoğan, a renowned novelist, columnist and human rights activist, in Turkey was detained on 17 August following a police raid into her apartment. Her arrest comes alongside more than 20 other journalists and employees from Özgür Gündem newspaper, a pro-Kurdish opposition daily, which was shut down by decree as part of the state of emergency in the country following the failed coup of 15 July 2016. Two further journalists from IMC TV, who were reporting on the raid, were also arrested. Erdoğan serves as an advisory board member and columnist in the paper.

Aslı Erdoğan’s first novel, Kabuk Adam (Crust Man), was published in 1994 and since published seven books. Her short story Wooden Birds received first prize from Deutsche Welle radio in a 1997 competition and her second novel, Kirmizi Pelerinli Kent (The City in Crimson Cloak), received numerous accolades abroad and has been published in 15 language translations. Her texts have also been translated to French and in 2005 she was shortlisted by respected French literary magazine, Lire, as one of the ‘50 most promising authors of tomorrow.’

On 24 August 2016, in an interview given to the Turkish daily Cumhuriyet from the detention centre where she is being held, Erdoğan – who suffers from asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and diabetes – said that she was being held in awful conditions and had been denied essential medication for five days, as well as requests for water.

On 15 November 2016, Erdoğan was one of the focus cases for PEN International’s annual Day of the Imprisoned Writer; Canadian writer Margaret Atwood, German writer Nina George and Turkish writer Elif Shafak wrote open letters of solidarity, while Erdoğan was in prison.

On 5 September 2016, Istanbul's Fifth Criminal Judgeship of Peace rejected Erdoğan's appeal of her arrest pending trial. On the first day of her trial on 29 December 2016, after pleading ‘not guilty’, she was released pending completion of her trial. According to the newspaper Hurriyet, she said at her trial: ‘I will defend myself as if the laws existed … I am a writer and the purpose of my existence is to tell a story. The only evidence shown to me for being a member of the terrorist organization is my name on the newspaperIt’s another irony to try a writer for being a member of an organization who has loneliness in every line of her pieces.’ Erdoğan spoke to reporters after her release; an account can be read here.

Erdoğan returned to court on 2 January 2017, where the judge rejected her defence team’s request to have the travel ban against her lifted. Her next court date will be in March 2017.

For further information please contact Aurelia Dondo at PEN International, Koops Mill Mews, 162-164 Abbey Street, London SE1 2AN, Tel.+ 44 (0) 20 7405 0338, Fax: +44 (0) 20 7405 0339, email: