PEN Centre Germany, together with the more than 140 PEN centres worldwide, in a written statement published on Wednesday, has drawn attention to the dramatic situation of the freedom of expression in different parts of the world on the occasion of the upcoming 15 November “Day of the Imprisoned Writer”.
German PEN has brought to the attention of the public the fates of imprisoned authors Rahile Dawut (China/Xinjiang), Selahattin Demirtaş (Turkey), Mohamed Al-Roken (United Arab Emirates) as well as Maykel Osorbo (Cuba).
“The threat to authors and writers worldwide has unfortunately not decreased. We observe with great concern the situation in all those countries where expression is suppressed and intellectuals are imprisoned,” Ralf Nestmeyer, vice-president and Writers-in-Prison representative of German PEN highlighted.
German PEN particularly noted the situation of Demirtaş, among others. “The politician, lawyer and writer Selahattin Demirtaş has been in prison since 2016. In one trial, he was sentenced to 4 years and 8 months in prison for so-called terrorist propaganda. Further charges against Demirtaş, who is an honorary member of PEN Centre Germany, are pending,” German PEN said.
German PEN also recalled the decision of the European Court of Human Rights regarding Demirtaş: “Turkey is ignoring the ruling of the European Court: Politician, lawyer and writer Selahattin Demirtaş has been in prison since November 2016, despite the fact that the European Court of Human Rights ordered his release back in 2018.”
The Day of the Imprisoned Writer was initiated in 1980 by the Writers in Prison Committee of international PEN in response to the alarming increase in the number of countries attempting to silence writers through repression.
Founded in London in 1921, PEN International promotes literature and freedom of expression. It is a forum where writers meet freely to discuss their work; it is also a voice speaking out for writers silenced in their own countries.
The Caselist 2020, prepared by PEN International, which includes information on current cases against writers worldwide on an annual basis, is available on this link.
Selahattin Demirtaş is a former Co-Chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) who has been behind bars in Edirne Prison in northwest Turkey since 3 November 2016. He has been held in prison despite a binding ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in December 2020 that he must be immediately released. Since his imprisonment, Demirtaş has written four books: “Seher”, “Devran”, “Leylan” and “Efsun”.