International Writers’ Associations Concerned for Turkish Detained Writers

Published December 21st, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

The Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC), International PEN - based in London - has voiced its apprehension over the safety of writers following thee storming of twenty prisons by Turkish security, according to a statement emailed to 

The crackdown on the jails reportedly led to the deaths of up to twenty prisoners and two policemen. Many more have been injured. The police operation was aimed at ending a hunger strike being staged by some 200 prisoners, who are 

protesting their imminent transfer to smaller prison cells. The Justice Ministry reports suggest that fifteen of the prisoners died after setting themselves on fire. Over 1,000 prisoners are said to have taken part in protests against their imminent transfer from dormitories to small "F-type 


The authorities claim that the transfer is essential to break up the influence of organized gangs, Kurdish separatists and Islamic groups in the 

prisons. The protestors fear that the small cells will make them vulnerable to abuse by prison officers. 

One of the most prominent political prisoners in Turkey is Esber Yagmurdereli, a playwright and lawyer who has been detained since June 1998, according to the association. 

Held in Lankiri Prison, one of those stormed by the police, there are unconfirmed reports suggesting that he had joined the hunger-strikers a few days ago. In a statement on 19 December, the Lankiri Public Prosecutor Ertem Türker stated that "As a result of the operation, we have transferred a total of 68 prisoners, including those whom we refer to  

as 'abscesses' and who continuously cause problems" to an F-type prison. He however reassured journalists that Yagmurdereli had been "protected as much as possible during the operation," adding that he would not be transferred to another prison. 

PEN was particularly disappointed that Yagmurdereli will not benefit from a new amnesty law in Turkey. Just a few days before the prison crisis, Sanar  

Yurdatapan, a composer and human rights activist who has been staging a long-term campaign against suppression of free expression, entered prison himself, to serve a two-month sentence for producing "Freedom of Expression 38", a collection of 

writings by dissident writers, intellectuals and union activists. Detained with him was Nevzat Onaran, chairman of the Contemporary Journalists Association, who was also given a two-month sentence. Both are thought to be held in Kartal Prison, which was not subject to police action, said the statement – 



© 2000 Al Bawaba (

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