On April 30, 2014, the Criminal Chamber No. 9 of the Supreme Court is due to review in appeal the decision of a lower court to sentence to life imprisonment Ms. Pınar Selek, an academic known for her commitment towards the rights of vulnerable communities in Turkey. The sentence relates to spurious charges of causing a bomb to explode in Istanbul’s Egyptian bazaar on July 9, 1998 and membership in a terrorist organisation.
In 1998, Ms. Pınar Selek was in turn accused without proof of supporting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and then of causing a bomb to explode in Istanbul’s Egyptian bazaar on July 9 of the same year. On the basis of these accusations, she was detained during two years and subjected to torture and ill-treatment, until her provisional release in 2000. Istanbul Heavy Penal Court No. 12 acquitted her on three occasions: in 2006, 2008, and 2011. Notwithstanding, the Prosecutor constantly appealed against the acquittal before the Supreme Court, which quashed the acquittal decisions. On January 24, 2013, the Istanbul Special Heavy Criminal Court No. 12 decided to defer to the Supreme Court’s request to convict and sentence Ms. Pınar Selek to life imprisonment.
Countless procedural irregularities were observed during the trial: violation of the right to be informed of the reasons for arrest or detention, violation of the prohibition of coercion during interrogation, right to a public hearing, right to equality before the law and courts, manipulation of the panel of judges, conviction based on inadmissible evidence including statements elicited by coercion, infringement of res judicata principle, violation of the right to be tried within a reasonable time, etc.
The Observatory recalls that the criminal case failed to demonstrate that Ms. Pınar Selek was involved in any terrorism-related activity. Indeed, court’s investigations largely confirmed the absence of any bomb and attributed the explosion to a gas leak; in addition the other defendant in the case who had accused her during interrogation withdrew his statement during the trial. Finally, it is worth mentioning that the court that convicted Ms. Selek, one of the courts with extraordinary powers which, in 2004, replaced State security courts, has recently been closed following a reform of the Penal Procedure Code.
The Observatory further reiterates its call on the Turkish judicial authorities to review its last decision and put an end to the uninterrupted harassment that has been targeting Ms. Pınar Selek for the last 16 years, as it seems to merely aim at sanctioning her for her legitimate exercise of the freedom of opinion and expression.
See Observatory mission report for a full chronology of events and a list of recommendations to the Turkish authorities, the United Nations, the European Union and other foreign diplomacies.