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INTERNATIONAL JOINT APPEAL CALLS FOR WRITER'S RELEASE

Eleven IFEX members and 267 writers from thirteen countries are supporting a joint action to free imprisoned Turkish playwright and human rights lawyer Esber Yagmurdereli. In an appeal to Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, the groups recount the many years that Yagmurdereli has been in prison for campaigning against human rights violations in Turkey in general and for highlighting the "plight of the Kurds" in Turkey. He was first arrested and sentenced to death in 1978, but his sentence was subsequently converted to a life-long sentence. Yagmurdereli was conditionally released from prison in August 1991, but ever since then, has undergone a series of court hearings due to his work. In October 1997, he was again imprisoned to serve the remainder of his life sentence in addition to a new ten month-sentence for a second "offense," for a total of 22 years and four months. Since this time, Yagmurdereli was temporarily released for health reasons from November 1997 to June 1998, when he was returned to prison.

"Yagmurdereli is only one of hundreds of writers and journalists who have been imprisoned or who have faced courts throughout the 1990's in Turkey" and his case "illustrates Turkey's continuing reluctance to grant its citizens their complete freedom to write and speak out their views without fear of reprisal," says Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC), International PEN. Yagmurdereli's case has received the attention of the international community, and he received the Ludovic Trarieux Award, of France's Bordeaux Bar Association, an honour he shares with Nelson Mandela among others, for "his contribution as a lawyer dedicated to the promotion of human rights." The free expression organisations strongly urge the Turkish government to release Yagmurdereli immediately and unconditionally, noting that it might consider enacting a general amnesty on 29 October, Turkey's National Day. Vaclav Havel, President of the Czech Republic, "added his voice to the appeal in a meeting with the Turkish President in Istanbul on 10 October, reports WiPC.


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