Writers in prison

Asiye Guzel Zeybek

Article 9 (3) of the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights guarantees the right to a trial within a reasonable time - and to release pending trial outcome where the judicial process is prolonged. Turkey is a signatory, but it has ignored both the letter and the spirit of the covenant in the case of Asiye Guzel Zeybek. Zeybek is a former editor of Worker's Path, a newspaper connected with the now-defunct Marxist-Leninist Communist Party. In 1994, she was charged under Article 168 for links to an "illegal" organisation. She was arrested in February 1997. At a trial hearing later that year, she claimed to have been raped by eight policemen while under interrogation at the Istanbul Security Directorate political department. Is this why she spent the next five years in prison awaiting trial?

English PEN has been part of a vigorous international campaign on Zeybek's behalf. We are glad to report that she was released from prison in June and that she was in Sweden on 16 October, when the Turkish Supreme Court sentenced her to 12 and a half years - a decision she plans to appeal. But we are concerned that the government has never fully investigated her allegations of rape, torture and maltreatment while in detention. These are described with searing and dignified clarity in a book that has now been translated by Richard McKane, to be published by Saqi Books next year.

For more information, please contact Sara Whyatt at the Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN, 9/10 Charterhouse Buildings, London EC1M 7AT, on 020 7253 3226 (phone) or 020 7253 5711 (fax). E-mail: sara@wipc.pen.org

Maureen Freely, a novelist and journalist, is a a member of PEN's Writers in Prison committee

This article first appeared in the 02 December 2002 issue of the New Statesman, Alone they stand, against a dominant PM