If you would like to send similar letters of protest to the Turkish authorities or to the Turkish ambassador in your own country, please feel free to use this letter as a model.
Mr Sadullah Ergin
Minister of Justice
Dear Mr Ergin,
With urgency, I wish to draw your attention to the case of the writer Nevin Berktaş, who was arrested on 2 November 2010 and is currently, and unjustly, imprisoned in Istanbul Bakirkoy Prison. She is serving a 10-month sentence for offences related to views expressed in her book, Inancin Sinandigi Zor Mekanlar: Hucreler.
The book was published in 2000, while the writer was in prison, and, as we understand it, Berktaş faced four separate trials as a result. Three of her trials resulted in cash fines or acquittals, but one, where she was tried for ‘aiding and abetting a terrorist organization,’ resulted in a guilty verdict and a four-year prison sentence. Following a change in the law, Berktaş’ lawyer requested a retrial of the case, after which the prison sentence was changed to a suspended sentence.
Berktaş was released in 2007, after serving thirteen years in prison. Previously, between 1983 and 1991, she had served another prison sentence of eight years. After her release, her lawyer was able to demonstrate that, due to an administrative error, Berktaş had served 5 years and 7 months longer in prison that she should have done.
After Berktaş’ release in 2007, the Inancin Sinandigi Zor Mekanlar: Hucreler case was re-tried once again and she was convicted and sentenced to ten months in prison under Article 7 of the Anti-Terror Law (propaganda for an illegal organization). As we understand it, her lawyer applied to the Prosecutor’s Office to have this sentence annulled because of the almost 6 extra years Berktaş had already spent in prison.
According to information we have received, the Prosecutor’s Office was in the process of reviewing this application – and had not completed the process – when an arrest warrant was issued for the writer and she was detained.
Nevin Berktaş is fifty-two years old, and, having spent twenty-one years in prison, she is in bad health. She has already spent more time in prison than her sentences required, and her imprisonment is punishment for views expressed in her book.
Given that Turkey is committed as a signatory to both Article 19 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights – both of which guarantee the right to freedom of expression – I urge you, as a matter of urgency, to consider the case of Nevin Berktaş, and to release her from prison.
Marian Botsford Fraser
Chair, Writers in Prison Committee