Arrested publisher Zarakolu says he is in Kafkaesque novel
Prominent publisher, writer and activist Ragip Zarakolu, who was arrested last month within the scope of the ongoing Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) trials, wrote a letter to the Hürriyet Daily News from prison, casting light on his present condition.
“Everything has been proceeding in an exceedingly Kafkaesque manner since the start,” Zarakolu, recipient of numerous prestigious awards, said in his letter to the Daily News.
Zarakolu spoke about his efforts to be transferred to the same penitentiary where his son Deniz Zarakolu, a Ph.D. student in Istanbul’s Bilgi University, has been detained in the northwestern province of Edirne due to his alleged links with the KCK since the start of October.
“Deniz is in Edirne, and I am in Kandira. I handed over a petition to the Bakirköy Coordination Prosecutor’s Office for our situation to be rectified. I requested to be transferred next to my son in Edirne,” said Ragip Zarakolu, who is held in an F-type prison in the northwestern province of Kocaeli where dangerous convicts are kept.
“My only chagrin is that the prosecutor’s office declined to let me see [my wife] Catherine. Fortunately, the police turned out to be more merciful and enabled us to meet in the Besiktaş courthouse on the day of the trial,” Zarakolu said in his letter, which bore a written statement that it had been reviewed by a prison committee.
Zarakolu also said he served prison time in 1972 due to a book published by his Belge Publishing House. He said his health was in good condition despite all the difficulties he had to face and described his time behind bars as “days passed under dim lights in long corridors.”
He also said he had begun to learn Kurdish because some of his fellow inmates spoke no Turkish. “I am learning Kurdish to conduct daily human conversations. I am also teaching German to my friends.”
Zarakolu said he picked up Tolstoy’s “Resurrection” and began reading it again after a lapse of 40 years. “This book is extremely important for me to be able to compare the past and the present. ‘Resurrection’ is about the problematic of conscience and catharsis.”
Ragip Zarakolu was arrested Nov. 1 alongside prominent academic Büsra Ersanli and dozens of other suspects upon the order of an Istanbul court. (Hürriyet Daily News, Vercihan Ziflioğlu, November 29, 2011)
International Media Organisations Renew Demand to Release Imprisoned Journalists
A mission of international journalists and media organisations - including the European Federation of Journalists and its affiliate, the Türkiye Gazeteciler Sendikası (TGS - Journalists' Union of Turkey), and a delegation of the German Deutscher Journalisten Verband (DJV), the International Press Institute (IPI), Reporters Without Borders (RSF), and the European Association of Journalists (AEJ) - on a visit to Turkey from 22-24 November to witness the deteriorating state of press freedom in the country today denounced the fact that 64 journalists are still in jail.
"We are impressed by the fact that the journalistic community in Turkey is now joining forces to fight for media freedom and the release of their jailed colleagues," the delegation said. "The solution of the problem lies in Turkey. As representatives of international organisations, we strongly support our colleagues and urge the authorities to talk to them and find democratic solutions on the issue of press freedom. The climate of fear and self-censorship that we observed must be put to an end."
Demonstration and process
On Tuesday, mission participants took part in a demonstration in front of the Caglayan Justice Palace, Istanbul, where the trial of 10 imprisoned Turkish journalists was to start. The demonstration took place without any incident, despite a massive police presence. However, the conditions of the hearing left the observers deeply concerned. In a much-too-narrow and overcrowded court room, which some delegates could only reach after more than two hours queue, the journalists' lawyers demanded the recusal of one of the three judges for alleged bias and sought the release of their clients, who remain under indictment. The court refused the demand for release and postponed the case until 26 December, when a higher court is expected to make a decision on the recusal request.
Meeting with families
On Wednesday, the mission's members met with families of detained journalists at the headquarters of the Freedom for Journalists Platform. After numerous and moving testimonies of facts, fear and courage, the participants voiced a number of recommendations, including the establishment of an organization to help the imprisoned journalists' families, the production of an "information kit" for foreign journalists who are unfamiliar with the poor situation of press freedom in Turkey and legal training for young Turkish journalists to allow them to better report on judicial cases.
Meetings in Parliament
On Thursday, the delegation, whose request to meet the Turkish minister of Justice was declined, met in Ankara with vice-presidents of the parliamentary groups of all political parties in the Turkish Parliament.
The three opposition parties promised to support a special session in the Turkish Parliament on press freedom and also to send MPs as observers to the trials of journalists. The ruling AKP party declared it would "take into consideration" the first proposal, as well as the possible monitoring of conditions of detention of journalists "and other detainees". They also promised to involve NGOs, non-governmental organisations, in future legislation on press issues.
Following the meetings, the international journalists and media organisations:
- repeat their concern and their anger over the worsening situation of press freedom in Turkey, which currently has the highest number of imprisoned journalists in Europe;
- demand a change in legislation to drop cases opened against journalists under the umbrella of the anti-terror law and the Turkish penal code;
- maintain their request for the immediate release of imprisoned Turkish journalists. (TGC-EFJ, 24 November 2011)
Info on Zarakolu's Arrest / Info sur l'arrestation de Zarakolu