Turkish novelist Asli Erdogan released from detention as trial continues

Asli Erdogan will be freed after 132 days in detention alongside one of her two co-defendants. A court has ordered their release from custody, but none of them will be able to leave the country.

Asli Erdogan and her co-defendant Necmiye Alpay and will be released from their pre-trial confinement before their hearings continue on January 2, 2017. Co-defendant Inan Kizilkaya, however, will remain in custody while the trial continues, the court said. Human rights organization PEN International said on Twitter that it welcomed the decision:

 Erdogan had spent more than four months behind bars while awaiting trial at a women’s prison in Istanbul’s Bakirköy district. The 49-year-old writer’s health has reportedly been impacted by her detention, as she suffers a number of chronic conditions.

Asli Erdogan and Necmiye Alpay will not be able to leave Turkey while the trial continues. All of the defendants still face life terms in prison if found guilty.

Terrorism charges

The home of the prize-winning Turkish novelist was raided on August 16 under the ongoing state of emergency in Turkey. She was arrested or her allegedly belonging to a terrorist organization and “undermining national unity,” a reference to her spot on the advisory board of “Özgür Gündem,” a pro-Kurdish newspaper which had been closed by court order for having supposed ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Some of the charges against Asli Erdogan were dropped in November, however, her defense team told DW that it had to work hard to prepare a strong defense against the remaining charges relating to membership in a terrorist group. Turkish authorities have arrested more than 1,600 people in the past six months for allegedly supporting terrorist organizations or insulting government officials, and are reportedly investigating 10,000 more people, according to government figures.

In a letter sent to DW in November, the novelist said that the situation in Turkey was “horrifying and extremely worrisome.”

“I believe that a totalitarian regime in Turkey will unavoidably shake all of Europe eventually,” she wrote.

Further arrests

The crackdown on dissidents in Turkey continued this week with the detention of a prominent investigative journalist. Ahmet Sik was taken into custody in Istanbul on suspicion of “denigrating” the Turkish state and engaging in “terrorist propaganda” on Twitter.

Journalist Ahmet Sik was detained in 2011 and 2012 already, as he continues to be an avid critic of President Erdogan’s leadership

Sik is a sharp critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). He has likened Erdogan and his ruling party to fascists.

Ahmet Sik’s lawyer Tora Pekin told DW that the journalist was not allowed to see his lawyers for the next five days, as the case against was being prepared.

Pekin added that, given the charges, he expected to remain in police custody for lengthy period of time.

According to government figures, at least 81 journalists are presently in prison in Turkey, mostly on anti-state charges, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), making the country the world’s worst jailer of journalists.

The Turkish Journalists’ Association puts the number of journalists behind bars at nearly 150.


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