Calling the charges “judicial harassment,” free expression watchdog PEN America is rallying international support for writer Aslı Erdoğan, who is facing jail time in Turkey for allegedly promoting terrorist propaganda. A verdict in Erdoğan’s trial is slated for February 14 and she faces a possible sentence of up to nine years in prison.
PEN America is calling for the charges against Erdoğan and her colleagues to be dropped.
A novelist and occasional columnist for Özgür Gündem, a pro-Kurdish newspaper, Erdoğan was arrested in the wake of the July 2016 Turkish coup attempt along with about 20 of her journalist colleagues and other staff who are also facing similar charges. First jailed and then banned from traveling, Erdoğan was eventually able to leave Turkey and has been living in self-imposed exile in Europe.
Aslı Erdoğan’s 2017 fiction collection The Stone Building and Other Stories was published in the U.S. by City Lights.
She shares the plight of scores of journalists, writers and media professionals in Turkey. Following the July 2016 coup attempt, the Turkish government imposed a state of emergency and moved to shut down scores of news outlets, efforts that have been denounced by PEN and other free expression organizations as suppressions of the Turkish free press and free speech.
Karin Deutsch Karlekar, director of Free Expression at Risk Program at PEN America, described the charges against Aslı Erdoğan as “baseless, and the threat of a lengthy sentence after such a drawn-out, unfair trial on such flimsy grounds is devastating.”
Karlekar added that the “incarceration and ongoing legal harassment against writers, journalists, and creative artists in Turkey is an appalling assault on free expression that undermines Turkey’s democratic traditions. We urge Turkish authorities to drop all charges against Erdoğan and all other writers and journalists–they must be free to speak out against the injustices in their country.”