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Turkish writer Ayşe Berktay released from prison

PEN American Center is thrilled by the news that Turkish translator, writer, and peaceful activist Ayşe Berktay has been released from prison pending trial today, but remains deeply troubled that her ongoing prosecution is indicative of a continued assault on writers, journalists, and scholars whose views the Turkish government disfavors. Ayşe Berktay's next hearing will take place on January 30, 2014.

Berktay, the 2013 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award winner, has been jailed for more than two years on spurious terror charges stemming from the peaceful expression of her views. She is among more than 1,800 people—including many writers and academics—who have been swept up in mass arrests of advocates for Kurdish rights in Turkey. PEN is following the cases of almost 150 writers, journalists, translators, and publishers in prison, on trial, or under threat in Turkey. Of those, 25 have been targeted for their digital content; 22 face terror-related charges.

“We are thrilled to celebrate Ayşe Berktay's release from prison and urge that the charges against her be dropped,” said Suzanne Nossel, executive director of PEN American Center. “We hope the decision to release her pending trial is accompanied by a thorough reexamination of the broad strokes of law used to repress free speech in Turkey. With more journalists in jail and more requests to Google to take down content than any other country, Turkey still has a long way to go to fulfill the obligations of international human rights law and its own constitution.”

Police arrested Ayşe Berktay and raided her home on October 3, 2011, seizing personal papers and materials, though no arrest or search warrant had been issued. She was eventually charged under Turkey's broad anti-terror legislation of “membership in an illegal organization” for allegedly “planning to stage demonstrations aimed at destabilizing the state, plotting to encourage women to throw themselves under police vehicles so as to create a furor, and attending meetings outside Turkey on behalf of the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK),” a banned pro-Kurdish party.

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