Conviction of Kurdish writer Gulgeş Deryaspî must be overturned: PEN International

The conviction of Kurdish writer Gulgeş Deryaspî on terrorism-related charges must be overturned, said PEN International in a statement on Tuesday, which included a call to action.

Deryaspî, whose legal name is Gülgeç Akdeniz, was sentenced to six years, three months in prison for “membership of a terrorist organization” in December 2020. A verdict on her appeal is expected by the end of April. According to PEN International she is targeted for her writings promoting Kurdish language and culture.

Deryaspî was taken into custody on July 25, 2019 following raids across Bitlis province in eastern Turkey, during which eight other individuals were also detained. She was released from pre-trial detention on March 30, 2020 in an effort by Turkish authorities to stem breakouts of COVID-19 in the country’s overcrowded jails.

In its call to action PEN International called for “an end to the prosecution and detention of journalists and writers simply on the basis of the content of their writing or alleged affiliation, and for all those held in prison for exercising their rights to freedom of expression.”

The organization also called for an end to the crackdown on the Kurdish regions and for a peaceful solution to the ongoing conflict. It described the situation of freedom of expression in Turkey as dire. “Kurdish culture and language are harshly repressed. Most pro-Kurdish and Kurdish language media outlets have been closed down, and dozens of journalists of Kurdish or pro-Kurdish outlets are in prison trumped-up terrorism charges,” PEN International said. “Writer and former co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Selahattin Demirtaş remains behind bars, despite the European Court of Human Rights twice ruling for his immediate release.”

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