Urgent Appeal

Turkey: Life sentence for human rights defender Pinar Selek, an outrageous decision


Paris-Geneva, June 28, 2022 – Renowned human rights defender Ms. Pinar Selek has been sentenced to life in prison. The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (a partnership of the International Federation for Human Rights-FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture-OMCT) and the French Human Rights League (LDH) are deeply appalled by this iniquitous decision from the Turkish Supreme Court and call on the authorities to quash this sentence.

On June 22, 2022, the Turkish Supreme Court sentenced Pinar Selek to life in prison.

Pinar Selek is a writer, sociologist and human rights defender from Turkey, now based in France, who was arrested in 1998 for her research on peace processes and demilitarisation.

Pinar Selek was accused of supporting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and then of setting off a bomb in Istanbul’s Egyptian bazaar on July 9 of the same year. Accusations by a young Kurdish individual obtained under torture led to Ms. Selek’s arrest. Even though the activist later recanted, she was detained and subjected to torture and ill-treatment for two years, until she was provisionally released in 2000. She was convicted and then acquitted by the Istanbul Criminal Court on four occasions, in 2006, 2008, 2011 and 2014, but the prosecutor constantly appealed to the Court of Cassation, which annulled the acquittal decisions even though all the investigations attributed the explosion to a gas leak.

Pinar Selek has been a victim of judicial harassment by the Turkish authorities for almost 24 years and is a refugee in France, where she obtained the French nationality in 2017. She became a member of the French Human Rights League (LDH) – a member organisation of FIDH – and is a former member of its National Committee.

The Observatory and LDH recall that because of this judicial harassment and under the constant threat an arbitrary arrest, her life and work in Turkey was severely disrupted. Furthermore, this outrageous life sentence may come with millions of euros in damages that will fall on her and put unprecedented economic pressure on Pinar and her family.

The Observatory and LDH urge the Turkish authorities to immediately and unconditionally quash the life sentence against Pinar Selek and reiterate their call to put an end to the uninterrupted judicial harassment against her, as it seems to merely aim at sanctioning her for her legitimate exercise of the freedom of opinion and expression.

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