Elif Shafak on trial in Turkey


PEN USA and PEN International alert

Author Elif Shafak , her Publisher and Translator Facing Trial

Elif Shafak, a highly respected and best-selling author of The Flea Palace and The Gaze is facing trial on charges of “insulting Turkishness” under the notorious Article 301 of the Turkish Criminal Code. Her publisher, Semi Sökmen of the Metis Publishing House, and translator Asli Bican are also facing charges. They are accused in connection with Shafak’s latest book, The Bastard of Istanbul. International PEN considers that Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code falls foul of international standards that protect the right to freedom of expression and to which Turkey is a signatory. It urges that the court hearing the case takes this breach into consideration and reconsiders its decision to proceed with the case.

One month ago, on 7 June 2006, the Beyoglu Public Prosecutor in Istanbul dismissed proceedings launched against Shafak after hearing Shafak and Sökmen’s argument that the book was a work of literature and it was therefore not appropriate for prosecution. They added that the book aimed to promote the culture of peace. However, in early July the Istanbul 7th High Criminal Court over-ruled the decision not to proceed, following a complaint filed by Kemal Kerincsiz, a member of a group of right wing lawyers known as the “Unity of Jurists” who have been active in the launching of prosecutions of numerous writers and journalists in recent months. The trial date has not yet been set.

Shafak’s book tells the story of two families – one based in Istanbul, the other an exiled Armenian family living in San Francisco - who share a family secret dating from the early 19th century that continues to effect the lives of their daughters in the present. Originally written in English, the book was published by the Metis Publishing House in March 2006 and has since become a best seller. It is due to be published in the US by Viking.

Please send appeals:

  • Urging that there be a reconsideration of the decision to proceed with the case against Elif Shafak, Semih Sökmen and Asli Bican
  • Expressing dismay that writers, journalists and publishers continue to be brought before the courts in violation of their right to freedom of expression
  • Urging that there be an end to these trials and that there be a review its legislation with the aim of removing all remaining laws that allow for the prosecution of those who practice their right to write and publish freely
  • Calling on the Turkish government to do all that it can to abide by its commitments to the protection and promotion of freedom of expression

Appeals to:

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Office of the Prime Minister
06573 Ankara
Fax: +90 312 417 0476

Foreign Minister and State Minister for Human Rights
Mr Abdullah Gül
Office of the Prime Minister
06573 Ankara
Fax: +90 312 287 8811

For further details contact Sara Whyatt at the Writers in Prison Committee

London Office: Brownlow House, 50/51 High Holborn, WC1V 6ER
Tel: + 44 (0) 20 7405 0338
Fax: + 44 (0) 20 7405 0339

e-mail: wipc@internationalpen.org.uk

For more information on this issue please visit PEN United States at www.pen.org and PEN International at www.internationalpen.org.uk