Turkey should drop charges against novelist Aslı Erdoğan, PEN America says

PEN America  said on Tuesday that Turkish authorities should drop all charges against award winning Turkish novelist Aslı Erdoğan ahead of the next hearing in the trial against her this week.

"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,” said Karin Deutsch Karlekar, director of Free Expression at Risk Programs at PEN America, the founding centre of the PEN global literary network.

Prosecutors have demanded Erdoğan, who is no relation to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, be given a jail sentence of up to nine years and four months on charges of making terrorist propaganda while working for Özgür Gündem, a pro-Kurdish newspaper authorities closed in 2016.

After her arrest in August 2016, Erdoğan spent 136 days in pre-trial detention for comments she made in a column she wrote for the newspaper. She now lives in Germany. 

“The charges against Aslı Erdoğan are baseless, and the threat of a lengthy sentence after such a drawn-out, unfair trial on such flimsy grounds is devastating,” Karlekar said.

The Turkish government says Özgür Gündem was linked to outlawed Kurdish militant groups that have fought for Kurdish autonomy in Turkey since 1984. The newspaper was permanently closed by an executive decree in October 2016 during a period of emergency rule following a failed coup attempt in July that year.