Nobel committee chairman says Turkey world’s largest jailer of intellectuals

Veteran Swedish writer and Chairman of the Nobel Committee for Literature Per Wästberg said Turkey has become the largest jailer of intellectuals and journalists in the world since, according to a PEN International report, 151 journalists are behind bars.

Speaking with the Spanish El País daily after visiting İstanbul as part of a PEN International delegation that sought to stand in solidarity with 151 journalists and writers currently in Turkish prisons, Wästberg expressed concern over the Turkish government’s crackdown on dissenters, including journalists and writers, and labeling them as terrorists.

Describing the attitude of the Turkish Justice and Development Party (AKP) government as “inexplicable mania,” Wästberg said those thousands of people critical of the government who were arrested following a failed coup last July are not terrorists but were simply expressing opposing points of view to the AKP government.

Wästberg, who also chaired PEN International from 1979 to 1986, said Turkish intellectuals who he met in İstanbul such as Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk and composer Zülfü Livaneli are depressed about the situation in Turkey and said they see no light in the near future.

Underlining that claims of some of government officials who he met during the visit were not convincing, Wästberg said: “Turkey has become a Kafkaesque country. It is absolutely absurd to cross out so many people as terrorists.”

He also added that the judicial system in Turkey doesn’t work since the constitution is not respected and people do not trust each other. (

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