PEN International is alarmed at the reported arrest earlier today, 20 November, of three members of its Kurdish PEN Centre in Diyarbakir, south east Turkey.

Kurdish PEN members Mehmet ÜRSELENDİ (Kurdish PEN Member), Sultan MERCEN (Kurdish PEN Board Member) and Herdem TATLISOY (Kurdish PEN Board Member) were arrested alongside over 70 other people, many of whom are lawyers active in the defense of human rights, as well as civil society activists and politicians. They are being investigated for their alleged involvement in the Democratic Society Organisation, an umbrella organization representing pro-Kurdish NGOs, civil society organisations and political parties. They face charges of “establishing organizations in favour of an illegal organisation”, an offence often used to arrest human rights defenders in Turkey.

PEN International is deeply concerned that arrests of Ürselendi, Mercen and Tatlısoy and others detained alongside them is an attempt to silence criticism and to curtail the rights to freedom of expression and association.