Ahead of an expected verdict in the case against Turkish writer Aslı Erdoğan on February 14, under which she faces a sentence of up to nine years and four months in prison on charges of promoting terrorist propaganda, PEN America calls for the charges to be dropped and for the ongoing judicial harassment of Erdoğan and her colleagues to cease immediately.
Erdoğan is a well-regarded novelist and occasional columnist for Özgür Gündem, a pro-Kurdish newspaper that was closed by decree after the failed July 2016 coup. She was arrested in August 2016 and initially charged with being a member of a terrorist organization and disrupting the unity of the state, but was released from pre-trial detention on December 29, 2016 following a national and international outcry.
After the travel ban against her was lifted in June 2017, she has largely lived in self-imposed exile in Europe. On January 13, 2020, during the fifteenth hearing of the main trial of the newspaper and many of its employees, who face similar charges, prosecutors requested that she be sentenced to a lengthy prison term for “making propaganda for a terrorist organization.” The next hearing, when the court is expected to decide on Erdoğan’s sentence, is scheduled for February 14, 2020 at 10 am.
“The charges against Aslı Erdoğan are baseless, and the threat of a lengthy sentence after such a drawn-out, unfair trial on such flimsy grounds is devastating,” said Karin Deutsch Karlekar, director of Free Expression at Risk Programs at PEN America. “The incarceration and ongoing legal harassment against writers, journalists, and creative artists in Turkey is an appalling assault on free expression that undermines Turkey’s democratic traditions. We urge Turkish authorities to drop all charges against Erdoğan and all other writers and journalists–they must be free to speak out against the injustices in their country.”
Following the July 2016 coup attempt and imposition of a state of emergency by the current government, freedom of expression and of the press has all but disappeared in Turkey. More than 180 news outlets have been shut down under laws passed by presidential decree, and there are dozens of writers, journalists, and media workers in prison. PEN America has campaigned on behalf of a number of those writers incarcerated or otherwise facing restrictions on their freedom of expression or movement, including Necmiye Alpay, the Altan brothers, Ahmet Şık, and Zehra Doğan. pen.org