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Türkiye: Politically motivated charges against PEN member Pınar Selek must be dropped

June 25, 2024 IN WIP
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‘That PEN Türkiye member Pınar Selek finds herself once again on trial after being acquitted of all charges on four separate occasions is nothing less but a travesty of justice, and a chilling reminder of the risks faced by those in Türkiye who dare express dissenting views. Selek has been persecuted by the authorities of Türkiye for 26 years – half her life. Her politically motivated ordeal must end once and for all’, said Ma Thida, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee.


24 June 2024 – The authorities of Türkiye must drop all charges against renowned sociologist and PEN Türkiye member Pınar Selek, PEN International said today, ahead of her hearing in Istanbul on 28 June. She faces an aggravated life sentence on trumped up terrorism grounds if convicted.


Sociologist, feminist, writer, and PEN Türkiye member Pınar Selek has faced a decades-long trial over a 1998 explosion that occurred in the Istanbul Spice Bazaar, a tragedy that killed seven and injured over 100. Arrested in July 1998, Selek spent over two years in prison, where she said she suffered torture and other ill-treatment. Selek was acquitted of all charges four times – in 2006, 2008, 2011 and 2014 – due to the testimony of expert witnesses that claimed that the cause of the explosion was a gas leak rather than a bomb, yet courts ordered retrials after each of these acquittals. On 21 June 2022, Türkiye’s Supreme Court overturned Selek’s fourth acquittal. Her fifth trial before the Istanbul Criminal Court opened on 31 March 2023; the case was postponed to 29 September 2023, before being adjourned to 28 June 2024. She remains the subject of an international arrest warrant.


PEN International believes that the prosecution of Pınar Selek is linked to her work as a sociologist researching Kurdish communities in the mid-to-late 1990s, and that she is being pursued through the courts as a means of penalising her for her legitimate research and commentary. At the time of her arrest, Selek had been working on an oral history of the banned Kurdistan’s Workers Party (PKK) and talking to some PKK members to find out why they had chosen armed violence. Selek reported being tortured under investigation, in an attempt to coerce her into divulging the names of individuals she had interviewed as part of her research.


The situation for freedom of expression in Türkiye remains a grave concern. In September 2022, the Assembly of Delegates of PEN International notably adopted a resolution calling on the authorities of Türkiye to end the prosecution and detention of writers on the basis of the content of their writing – including in support of Kurdish language and culture – and to immediately release all those held for peacefully expressing their views.


Pınar Selek, born on 8 October 1971, has written extensively about the plight of women, the poor, street children, the LGBTI community and the Kurds in Türkiye. She is one of the founding editors of Amargi, a Turkish feminist journal. Her latest book Le Chaudron Militaire Turc (The Military Cauldron) was published in November 2023. She has been living in France since 2012 and holds both French and Turkish citizenship. PEN International and PEN Centres have long supported Selek, including by notably observing her trial hearings and campaigning for all charges against her to be dropped. She is a former resident of German PEN’s Writers-in-Exile programme.


For more information about PEN International’s work on Türkiye and campaign for Pınar Selek, please see War, Censorship and Persecution, PEN International’s Case List 2023/2024, which documents 122 cases of persecuted writers worldwide, including Selek.


Note to Editors

For further information please contact Aurélia Dondo, Head of Europe and Central Asia Region:



Aurélia Dondo| Head of Europe and Central Asia | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

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People say that (writers) are pretty powerless: we don’t have an army, we don’t have a bureaucracy. But if that were true, then why would writers be arrested?... Because the spoken word is powerful.

— John Ralston Saul on the work of PEN International