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Turkey: verdict expected in trial of Kurdish PEN member and writer Meral Şimşek

Thursday 7 July 2022 - 1:43pm

Meral Şimşek (CC Meral Şimşek)

Update - 20 September 2022

On 20 September 2022, a court in Ipsala, northwestern Turkey, found Meral Şimşek guilty of ‘entering a restricted military area’ and sentenced her to one year and eight months in prison. She said she would appeal against her conviction.

In a separate case, Şimşek was found guilty of ‘making terrorist propaganda’ and sentenced to one year and three months in prison in October 2021. Her appeal is ongoing.

PEN International believes that Meral Şimşek is being targeted for her writings and urges the Turkish authorities to overturn both convictions.

Update #1 to RAN 03/2021

Kurdish PEN member, writer and poet Meral Şimşek is facing up to five years in prison on the charge of ‘entering a restricted military area’ after she fled to Greece in June 2021 and was pushed back to Turkey. A verdict is expected to be announced at her next trial hearing in Ipsala, northwestern Turkey, on 18 July 2022. In a separate case, Şimşek was found guilty of ‘making terrorist propaganda’ and sentenced to one year and three months in prison in October 2021. Her appeal is ongoing.

PEN International believes that Meral Şimşek is being targeted for her writings. PEN International calls on the Turkish authorities to overturn her conviction and drop all charges against her.

TAKE ACTION: Please send appeals to the Turkish authorities:

  • Calling for all charges against Meral Şimşek to be dropped, and for her conviction to be overturned;
  • Calling for an end to the prosecution and detention of journalists and writers on the basis of the content of their writing or alleged affiliation, and for the immediate release all those held in prison for exercising their right to freedom of expression;
  • Calling for an end to the crackdown on the Kurdish regions and for a peaceful solution to the ongoing conflict.

Send appeals to:

Bekir Bozdağ

  • Role: Minister of Justice
  • Address: Ministry of Justice, Adalet Bakanlığı, 06659 Ankara, Turkey
  • Contact: info@adalet.gov.tr

Send copies to the Embassy of Turkey in your own country. Embassy addresses may be found here: https://cd.mfa.gov.tr/mission/mission-list?clickedId=3

Please reach out to your Ministry of Foreign Affairs and diplomatic representatives in Turkey, calling on them to raise the case of Meral Şimşek in bilateral fora.

***Please send appeals immediately. Check with PEN International if sending appeals after 18 July 2022. ***

Please inform PEN International of any action you take and any responses you receive. Messages can be sent to Aurélia Dondo, Europe Programme Coordinator: Aurelia.dondo@pen-international.org

Publicity

PEN members are encouraged to:

  • Publish articles and opinion pieces in your national or local press highlighting the case of Meral Şimşek and the state of freedom of expression in Turkey;
  • Share information about Meral Şimşek and your campaigning activities via social media.

Please keep us informed of your activities.

Background

Meral Şimşek is the prize-winning author of three poetry books – Mülteci Düşler (Refugee Dreams), Ateşe Bulut Yağdıran (Clouds on Fire) and İncir Karası (Black Fig). Her novel Nar Lekesi (Pomegranate Stain), published in 2017, tells the story of Şimşek’s family and sheds light on the plight of Kurdish people in Turkey in the 1990s. Her latest collection of short stories, Arzela, was published in April 2022. She became a member of Kurdish PEN in June 2020. She also works as an editor and frequently publishes poems and articles.

On 9 December 2020, Şimşek was detained by the Turkish anti-terror police in Malatya province, Eastern Turkey. She was released the following day pending trial, and placed under a travel ban. In January 2021 Şimşek was charged with ‘membership of a terrorist organisation’ under Article 314/2 of Turkey’s Penal Code and ‘making terrorist propaganda’ under Article 7/2 of Anti-Terror Law No. 3713. The indictment notably mentions her short story Arzela, featured in the anthology Kurdistan + 100, in which twelve contemporary Kurdish writers imagine a country they could call their own by the year 2046.

Şimşek attempted to flee to Greece on 29 June 2021 but was apprehended by Greek police who reportedly stopped and strip-searched her before handing her over to masked individuals who forced her to cross the border back into Turkey. On 30 June, she was detained by Turkish police at the Ipsala border crossing and sent to Edirne Prison, where she spent seven days before appearing in court. She was released on bail and asked to report to the police station three times a week while awaiting trial for ‘entering a restricted military area’ under Article 332/1 of the Penal Code. Her next trial hearing is set to take place at the Ipsala Criminal Court of First Instance on 18 July 2022, when a verdict is expected to be announced. The prosecution requested her conviction. She faces between two and five years in prison.

On 7 October 2021, Şimşek was found guilty of ‘making terrorist propaganda’ and sentenced to one year and three months in prison by the Malatya 2nd High Criminal Court. She was acquitted of the charge of ‘membership of a terrorist organisation’ and had her travel ban lifted. Her appeal is ongoing.

For more information about Meral Şimşek and PEN’s campaign please click here.

For more information about the state of freedom of expression in Turkey, and how the Turkish authorities are using counter-terrorism laws to target dissenting views, please click here.

For further details contact Aurélia Dondo at PEN International, Koops Mill, 162-164 Abbey Street, London, SE1 2AN, UK Tel: +44 (0) 20 7405 0338 Fax +44 (0) 20 7405 0339 e-mail: Aurelia.dondo@pen-international.org