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Human Rights

Exiled Turkish writer acquitted of bomb charges for third time

Pinar Selek, a Turkish sociologist exiled in Berlin, has faced trial on the same bombing charges three times. She was acquitted again Wednesday in absentia, after Turkey's supreme court demanded a second retrial.

Pinar Selek

Selek was writing about Kurdish rebels when she was arrested

A Turkish writer and sociologist was acquitted for the third time Wednesday of involvement in a 1998 explosion that killed seven and injured over 120 others in Istanbul's spice bazaar.

Pinar Selek, who lives in exile in Germany, must now wait until summer to see if she will face a fourth trial on the same charges.

She had previously been acquitted in 2006 and 2007 of aiding and abetting Kurdish rebels who allegedly planted a bomb that caused the explosion. But because lower court verdicts in Turkey's legal system are subject to approval or dismissal by a higher court, Selek could still face a life sentence for the alleged bombing if the Turkish Supreme Court in Ankara decides to overrule her acquittal by a lower Istanbul court.

Selek worked as a sociologist researching Kurdish issues in the mid-to-late 1990s and had contact with the banned Turkish Workers Party (PKK) guerrilla group.

'No bomb'

Selek's defence has argued that it is unclear whether the deadly 1998 explosion was even caused by a bomb. Experts have largely agreed it seems to have been a gas canister explosion instead.

Istanbul's spice market

The explosion at Istanbul's spice market was originally reported to be caused by a gas canister explosion

Emma Sinclair-Webb, Turkey researcher for Human Rights Watch, agreed that the reports had been altered to make the explosion look like a bomb attack.

"The pursuit of this case for 12 years violates the most basic requirements for a fair trial," she said.

Selek's defence also presented evidence that the sociologist had been tortured during her two and a half years in police custody.

Selek, who did not appear in Istanbul for her trial, told Turkish broadcaster NTV that she had had many horrific experiences over the past years, “but now I don't want to think about bad things. I want to be happy,” she said.

Support from activists

Notable Turkish intellectuals such as writer Yasar Kemal were joined by several human rights activists from Europe to observe the trial, which Selek's supporters have said is politically motivated.

Turkey's supreme court will review the case again June 22 to determine if it will demand a new trial. Selek's case has led to international criticism of Turkey's legal system for allowing people to be repeatedly tried for the same crime.

Author: David Levitz (AFP, AP, dpa)

Editor: Rob Turner

DW.DE