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Europe

Convicted Turkish academic tells of terror charge ‘nightmare’

©

Text by Marc DAOU

Latest update : 2013-01-24

Pinar Selek, cleared three times of complicity in a 1998 explosion in Istanbul, has been sentenced to life imprisonment by a Turkish court. She told FRANCE 24 the authorities want to silence her research on Armenian and Kurdish issues.

Turkish sociologist Pinar Selek had hoped a judicial nightmare - in which she has been accused and repeatedly cleared of involvement in an alleged 1998 Istanbul terror bombing - was finally over.

But on Thursday an Istanbul court sentenced the 41-year-old academic, who lives in self-imposed exile in France, to life imprisonment.

Three previous prosecutions have collapsed and she has been repeatedly cleared of any wrongdoing.

“I’m shocked,” she told FRANCE 24 moments after the verdict was announced. “It feels like a member of my family has died. I want to carry on being a free woman, but above all I want to carry on the fight and put an end to this nightmare.”

The court took just one hour to deliberate the case and find her guilty of helping Kurdish rebels allegedly detonate a bomb in the Istanbul Spice Bazaar in 1998, killing seven people in 1998.

Selek says her ongoing research into issues that make the Turkish establishment profoundly uncomfortable is the reason for Thursday’s guilty verdict.

“If I had stopped campaigning and researching, I don’t think I would have had so many problems,” she said.

Charged due to her research?

In the eyes of the authorities in Turkey, Selek argues, she committed the unforgivable sin of studying both the country’s ongoing problems with the Kurdish minority, as well as the thorny issue of the Armenian genocide.

“I have become a symbol of freedom that they want to extinguish at all costs,” says Selek, who has not sought refugee status in France and could theoretically be extradited to Turkey.

Her nightmare began in 1998 following the explosion in the busy heart of Istanbul, which the Turkish security services blamed on the separatist Kurdish PKK movement.

Selek was accused of complicity following testimony that had been obtained under torture.
She was jailed and claims she was tortured for refusing to divulge the names of Kurds she had contacted as part of her research.

Two-and-a-half years later a forensic report was published that said the explosion was the result of a gas leak.

Selek was released and was subsequently re-tried - and acquitted - in 2006, 2008 and 2011. Each acquittal was immediately invalidated by the Supreme Court and the case re-opened.

Selek said her lawyers were appealing the latest verdict.
 

Date created : 2013-01-24

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