Campaign launched against life sentence for anti-militarist

By staff writers
February 16, 2013

A campaign has been launched to quash a life sentence which has been given to a Turkish anti-militarist by an Istanbul court.

War Resisters' International, an international network with more than 80 affiliates in 40 countries, has condemned the persecution of Pinar Selek, who currently lives in Strasborg.

The sentence was delivered on 24 January. Pinar Selek was accused of causing multiple deaths and injuries in the 1998 Spice Bazaar explosion in Istanbul on 9 July 1998.

Campaigners say there is no evidence that Pinar committed the crime and that the accusation against her was obtained as a result of the torture of a co-defendant. The statement was later revoked by Abdulmecit Ozturk, at his trial.

Much evidence points to the explosion being caused by a gas leak, rather than through intentional violence against civilians.

The case has been reopened, after acquittals and re-prosecutions, three times in 14 years. In this time, Pinar has been imprisoned for over two and a half years.

Campaigners say that given the lack of evidence against her, and ongoing persecution, Pinar's prosecution is politically motivated, and related to her identification with the antimilitarist movement in Turkey.

In 1998 Pinar – a sociologist – was undertaking research into the conflict between the Turkish state and minority Kurdish community. For this research, she interviewed members of the PKK, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party. On her return she was apprehended by Turkish security services and, when she refused to reveal the names of her informants, was tortured. It was soon after this that she was accused of instigating the 1998 Spice Bazaar explosion.

Pinar's persecution is one of a series of examples of the persecution of antimilitarists in Turkey, including conscientious objectors.

War Resisters' International have been aware of Pinar Selek's persecution for many years. They sent an international observer to her trial in 2011, and in 2011 made a statement in her support, calling for an end to her prosecution.

"We will continue to support Pinar Selek, and all antimilitarists in Turkey" the organisation said in a statement.

"We express solidarity with the 'We Are Still Witnesses' platform, which is working for justice for Pinar.

War Resisters' International is demanding the immediate quashing of Pinar Selek's life sentence, and an end to her persecution. They say her trial is in violation of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects the right to a fair trial.


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