Terrorism charges against Kurdish writer Meral Şimşek must be dropped: PEN International

All charges against Kurdish writer Meral Şimşek, who is facing up to 15 years in prison for membership in a terrorist organization, must be dropped, said PEN International in a statement last week.

The statement included a call to action to send appeals to the Turkish authorities on Şimşek’s behalf and urged an end to the prosecution and detention of journalists and writers on the basis of the content of their writing.

In addition to the charges of terrorist group membership, Şimşek is also facing up to seven-and-a-half years for spreading terrorist propaganda. Her trial is scheduled to begin on September 21. According to PEN International, Şimşek is being targeted for her writing, which includes Kurdish poems.

Prohibitions against the use of Kurdish in Turkey go back many years, and authorities have increasingly restricted the use of Kurdish in recent years.

Şimşek was also the victim of an illegal pushback when she attempted to flee to safety in June. Greek authorities sent her back to Turkey, where she will be tried in another proceeding in November for “entering a restricted military area” while trying to reach Greece.

Şimşek said she was beaten by Greek authorities, which has been documented in medical reports. She said she was subjected to a strip-search in a swamp area where the security officers found her and made to board a vehicle that had no license plate.

“The vehicle smelled of blood and urine and carried several other people like me,” she said. “I thought we were being taken to a deportation center, but we were driven through rough terrain for hours.”

Şimşek said they were told to get out of the vehicle on the banks of a river. “They threw our belongings into the river and pushed us onto boats. We were sent back to Turkey, where we were detained at the border.”

Eren Keskin, a lawyer and co-chair of the Human Rights Association (İHD), said Greece had violated international law and that they would appeal to international courts.

“Şimşek is a literary figure who is facing pressure and prosecution at home due to her publications,” Keskin said. “But she is also the victim of a brutal pushback during which she was beaten and harassed.”

Although Greece has strenuously denied being involved in pushbacks, human rights watchdogs have documented illegal detentions of refugees who were summarily returned to Turkey.

According to Amnesty International, the practice of migrant pushbacks in Greece has become so bad that even people who have applied for asylum and have been in the country for some time are being picked up and deported.

Their report, “Greece: Violence, lies and pushbacks,” documents how the Greek authorities are conducting illegal pushbacks on land and sea in contravention of their human rights obligations under EU and international law.

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