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UPDATE: Büsra Ersanli was released in July, according to Reporters without borders (RSF). Publisher and human rights activist Ragip Zarakolu was released in April, reports PEN American Center.

Büşra Ersanlı and Ragip Zarakolu
Büşra Ersanlı and Ragip Zarakolu

Initiative for Freedom of Expression

After a professor and well-known publisher were arrested as part of a series of unjust arrests, IFEX members are asking supporters to put pressure on the Turkish government to release its political prisoners and stop its war on dissent and free speech.

Professor Büsra Ersanli and publisher and human rights activist Ragip Zarakolu, among a group of about 50 people, were the latest to be rounded up when police raided the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democratic Party (BDP) offices in Istanbul on 28 October. The IPS Communication Foundation (BIANET), Initiative for Freedom of Expression (Antenna-TR), International Publishers Association (IPA), PEN American Center and the Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of PEN International have all joined the loud chorus of voices condemning the arrests and calling for Turkey to free those unjustly detained.

IPA notes that "these arrests are part of a larger crackdown initiated in 2009 and still on-going against Kurdish political parties."

The raids are part of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's plan to silence dissent in Kurdish communities while justifying the measures as "fighting terrorism," according to a petition calling for an end to arbitrary detentions:

Since 2009, a shocking 7748 people have been taken into custody and 3895 people have been imprisoned for alleged association with the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), reportedly a branch of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, according to the petition. As the KCK has been deemed by the government to be a terrorist organisation, the government of Turkey is using anti-terrorist legislation to circumvent the legal rights of advocates and prisoners, holding many of those arrested without trial.

Ersanli lectures at Marmara University in constitutional law and is a member of the Assembly of the BDP, reports BIANET. Though the BDP is a legal and democratic political party, the government treats its members as criminals by claiming they support the KCK. Zarakolu is a renowned activist, the chair of Turkey's "Freedom to Publish Committee" and the former chair of the WiPC in Turkey. IPA called Zarakolu, recipient of the 2008 IPA Freedom to Publish Prize, "a man whom many view as Turkey's most prominent freedom of expression and minority rights activist." He has spent a lot of time in court for speaking out on controversial subjects and IPA is concerned that prison would impact his already poor health.

One of Zarakolu's sons, Deniz Zarakolu, editor of the Belge Publishing House, was also previously arrested on 2 October after giving a lecture on political philosophy at the BDP political science academy, and has been detained since then, report IFEX members, who say more arrests are sure to occur.

WiPC is asking advocates to send letters to Turkey's Minister of Justice, Sadullah Ergin, calling for an investigation into the arrests of the academics arrested under Turkey's anti-terror legislation.

Click here to see WiPC's call for action on Deniz Zarakolu's case
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  • Writer and academic arrested

    Although no charges have been formally declared, it is believed that Deniz Zarakolu is being held as the result of his peaceful exercise of the right to free expression.

Case history

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