The verdict in the trial of Kurdish PEN member, writer and poet Meral Şimşek is expected on 18 July.
Kurdish PEN member, writer and poet Meral Şimşek is facing up to five years in prison on the charge of ‘entering a restricted military area’ after she fled to Greece in June 2021 and was pushed back to Turkey.
A verdict is expected to be announced at her next trial hearing in Ipsala, northwestern Turkey, on 18 July 2022. In a separate case, Şimşek was found guilty of ‘making terrorist propaganda’ and sentenced to one year and three months in prison in October 2021.
PEN International believes that Meral Şimşek is being targeted for her writings. PEN International calls on the Turkish authorities to overturn her conviction and drop all charges against her.
Meral Şimşek is the prize-winning author of three poetry books – Mülteci Düşler (Refugee Dreams), Ateşe Bulut Yağdıran (Clouds on Fire) and İncir Karası (Black Fig). Her novel Nar Lekesi (Pomegranate Stain), published in 2017, tells the story of Şimşek’s family and sheds light on the plight of Kurdish people in Turkey in the 1990s. Her latest collection of short stories, Arzela, was published in April 2022. She became a member of Kurdish PEN in June 2020. She also works as an editor and frequently publishes poems and articles.
On 9 December 2020, Şimşek was detained by the Turkish anti-terror police in MalatyaMalatya
province, Eastern Turkey. She was released the following day pending trial, and placed under a travel ban. In January 2021, Şimşek was charged with ‘membership of a terrorist organisation’ under Article 314/2 of Turkey’s Penal Code and ‘making terrorist propaganda’ under Article 7/2 of Anti-Terror Law No. 3713. The indictment notably mentions her short story Arzela, featured in the anthology Kurdistan + 100 (Comma Press), in which twelve contemporary Kurdish writers imagine a country they could call their own by the year 2046.
Şimşek attempted to flee to Greece on 29 June 2021 but was apprehended by Greek police who reportedly stopped and strip-searched her before handing her over to masked individuals who forced her to cross the border back into Turkey. On 30 June, she was detained by Turkish police at the Ipsala border crossing and sent to Edirne Prison, where she spent seven days before appearing in court. She was released on bail and asked to report to the police station three times a week while awaiting trial for ‘entering a restricted military area’ under Article 332/1 of the Penal Code. Her next trial hearing is set to take place at the Ipsala Criminal Court of First Instance on 18 July 2022, when a verdict is expected to be announced. The prosecution requested her conviction. She faces between two and five years in prison.
On 7 October 2021, Şimşek was found guilty of ‘making terrorist propaganda’ and sentenced to one year and three months in prison by the Malatya 2nd High Criminal Court. She was acquitted of the charge of ‘membership of a terrorist organisation’ and had her travel ban lifted. Her appeal is ongoing.