Publisher and Director of Belge Publishing House Ragip Zarakolu (pictured), a member of Turkish PEN and chair of Turkey’s Freedom to Publish Committee, is one of more than 40 activists who were detained in Istanbul on Friday, according to PEN and the International Publishers Association. The arrests are part of a crackdown against Kurdish political parties which has seen more than 1,800 supporters of the banned Koma Civakên Kurdistan party jailed since 2009.
Zarakolu founded Belge in 1977 and has tested publishing restrictions in Turkey ever since by releasing controversial books from Armenian, Greek and Kurdish authors in Turkish editions, including books documenting the Armenian genocide, reports The Guardian. His office was firebombed by a right-wing extremist group in 1995, said PEN, he was banned from leaving Turkey between 1971 and 1991 and he has been the subject of repeated charges, most recently being fined for releasing Mehmet Güler’s The KCK File/The Global State and Kurds Without a State in March 2011.
Zarakolu is accused of being a Kurdish Communities Union (KCK) executive, is currently kept at the Metris high-security prison while his son Deniz Zarakolu, the other editor at Belge Publishing House, is under arrest at the Edirne Prison, reports BİA News Center.
In his first letter sent from prison through his lawyer Özcan Kiliç, Ragip Zarakolu said: “My arrest and the accusation of membership of an illegal organization are parts of a campaign aiming to intimidate all intellectuals and democrats of Turkey and particularly to deprive the Kurds of any support.”
Zarakolu said that during the raid to his house the police confiscated only few books as “evidences of crime” and found nothing about his so-called relations with any organization.
The books that confiscated as evidences of crime are the 2nd volume of Vatansiz Gazeteci (Stateless Journalist) by Dogan Özgüden, chief editor of Info-Türk, Habiba by Ender Öndes, Peace Process by Yüksel Genç, manuscripts of three books about the Genocide of Armenians and Armenian History.
He added that at the police headquarters, all his bank and credit cards were confiscated.
Reminding that he is invited as speaker to many conferences abroad, mainly next week to Berlin, later on to the US University Colgate, Los Angeles and Michigan, Zarakolu said: “The government should give them an answer explaining the real reason of my arrest.”
Zarakolu concluded his letter with the following appeal:
“During my interrogation, they did not ask any question about the organization of which I was accused of being a member. They questioned me only about the books that I wrote or edited for publication, the public meetings where I spoke or attended. I think that everybody should jointly react against this campaign of arrests that turns into a collective lynching. These illegal practices should be stopped.”