TURKEY: The Supreme Court overturns life sentence against Pınar Selek - Pınar Selek to be re-tried for the 5th time

Urgent Appeal

Paris-Geneva, June 12, 2014. The Supreme Court overturned the life sentence issued against sociologist Pınar Selek on January 24, 2014. The case will have to be re-tried before a lower court for the fifth time. Today, the Turkish judicial system must demonstrate that it tolerates dissenting voices, by putting a final point to this saga and definitely acquitting Ms. Selek.

On June 11, 2014, the Criminal Chamber No. 9 of the Supreme Court decided to overturn 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 court argued that Istanbul Special Heavy Criminal Court No. 12 had violated procedural rules, by revoking its own decision of acquittal while the case had already been transferred for review to a higher court.

“The Pınar Selek case illustrates a 16-year long relentless and vain harassment aiming at putting on the dock the prominent sociologist at the cost of the right to a fair trial. The decision of the Supreme Court is a consequence of this unthinkable drift. We should not only welcome this promising judgement, but also call on the Prosecutor of Istanbul to drop all charges against her”, said FIDH President Karim Lahidji.

“Countless procedural irregularities were observed during the quashed trial: violation of the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment, 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 Supreme Court should not only have overturned the sentence but also confirmed the initial acquittal decision”, said Martin Pradel, Lawyer at the Paris Bar, trial observer for the Observatory.

In 1998, Ms. Pınar Selek was accused of supporting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and, subsequently and without evidence, 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. The Istanbul Heavy Penal Court No. 12 acquitted her on three occasions: in 2006, 2008, and 2011. Notwithstanding, the Supreme Court quashed the first two 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, though the case was still pending before the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court referred the case back to lower courts for trial.

It is worth mentioning that the lower courts which had previously tried Ms. Selek, and held extraordinary powers (the Special Criminal Courts), were suppressed in 2014 on the occasion of a reform of the Penal Procedure Code, following condemnations for violations of the right to a fair trial by the European Court of Human Rights.

“The judicial system should prove that this important reform is not just cosmetic and that Turkish citizens can effectively enjoy the right to a fair trial within a reasonable time, away from the games of politics”, said OMCT Secretary General Gerald Staberock. “Moreover, we recall that the criminal case has failed to demonstrate that Ms. Pınar Selek was involved in any terrorism-related activity. Consequently she should be definitely acquitted”, he further urged.

For more information see Observatory mission report available in English on the following web links:



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