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TURKEY: Writer and lawyer, Muharrem Erbey, writes of 2 ½ years detention

Thursday 12 July 2012 - 1:00am

RAN 12/33 - 12 July 2012

To mark that it has been more than two and a half years since Muharrem Erbey’s arrest and detention by Turkish authorities, PEN International calls for his immediate and unconditional release from prison, and the dropping of all charges that he faces. The human rights lawyer, writer and PEN Turkey member was arrested in December 2009 in the city of Diyarbakır in Southeast Turkey, where he was President of the region’s Human Rights Association (IHD). He has been held in prison ever since. PEN International, reiterates its concerns that his charges are linked to his work as a human rights advocate.

Autumn. In the morning, as I reach over the barbed wire crowning this wall six or seven metres in height, the sun as it passes briefly through our ventilation system and away again, the sound of the sparrows that perch on the wire and fly off with the crumbs of bread we toss, the squawking of doves overhead, this sky stained a cold and faded blue, the wind that howls and carries dry fragments of grass through the ventilation – all work the ache of loneliness finely and deeply into me, as the captivity of my shivering body grows a storey higher.. M Erbey letter from prison

Erbey is charged with “membership of an illegal organisation” under Article 220/6 of the Turkish Penal Code, with specific reference to the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), the alleged political front of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The PKK has been fighting an armed struggle against the Turkish state since 1984.

He has garnered international respect for his work as a human rights lawyer, and has represented a number of individuals whose cases have been heard by the European Court of Human Rights. In 2008 he was granted the Vice-Presidency of the IHD, which is one of Turkey’s most reputable human rights organisations, after many years as president of its Diyarbakır branch. He is also known for his research into disappearances and extra-judicial killings in and around the Diyarbakır region.

Erbey has worked as a columnist and writer, and is a member of the Kurdish Writers’ Association. In 2007 he co-edited a collection of Turkish and Kurdish language stories by 35 authors; distributed for free by the Diyarbakır Metropolitan Municipality to local people (he successfully defended the Mayor who organised this publication when he was later put on trial under a law that prohibited use of the Kurdish alphabet). He was also instrumental in the publication of another short story collection in 2004, Missing Pedigree. The publication of his latest short story collection – My Father, Aharon Usta – has been put on hold since his arrest.

In June 2012, Erbey wrote a letter to a number of organisations, including PEN International. To read the letter in full, see blog post.

The KCK Investigation

The KCK investigation, underway since April 2009, has led to the detention of over 8,000 suspects under the ATL, approximately 4,000 of whom have been placed on pre-trial detention, according to Turkish human rights monitors such as Suspects are accused of membership of the KCK, the alleged political front for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been engaged in armed conflict with the Turkish state since 1984. PEN estimates that over 90 writers, journalists or publishers are under investigation under the ATL, most of them related to the KCK investigation.

Please send appeals:
Expressing alarm at the continued detention of Muharrem Erbey and other writers and journalists detained because of their alleged affiliation with Kurdish political parties.
Calling for his immediate and unconditional release from prison, and the dropping of all charges that he faces.
Referring to concerns that Muharrem Erbey is being prosecuted on charges that contravene his right to freedom of expression and association by both as guaranteed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the European Convention on Human and Democratic Rights, to which Turkey is a signatory.

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.

For more information go to:

Human Rights Association (HRA/IHD):
Hurriyet Daily News:

**Please contact the PEN WiPC office in London if sending appeals after 12 October 2012**

For further information please contact Sara Whyatt at PEN International PEN Writers in Prison Committee, Brownlow House, 50/51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER, Tel.+ 44 (0) 20 7405 0338, Fax: +44 (0) 20 7405 0339, email: