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Dozens arrested in government crackdown on free speech

A professor and a well-known publisher and his son were arrested as part of a recent crackdown on dissent and free speech, report the IPS Communication Foundation (BIANET), Initiative for Freedom of Expression (Antenna-TR) and other IFEX members. Around 50 people have been detained in the past week.

Professor Busra Ersanli and publisher and human rights activist Ragip Zarakolu were taken into custody when police raided the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democratic Party (BDP) offices in Istanbul on 28 October. They have since been formally charged under the Anti-Terror Law and remain in detention. Zarakolu is charged with "membership of an illegal organisation," after giving a speech at a BDP event, reports the Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of PEN International.

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

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 banned Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK).

Zarakolu is a renowned activist, the chair of the Freedom to Publish Committee of the Turkish Publishers Association. 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.

Click here to sign a petition for the prisoners' release
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    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.

  • Sign a petition to free prisoners of opinion

    After Professor Busra Ersanli and publisher Ragip Zarakolu, a well-known human rights activist, and his son 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.

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