Frankfurt book fair opens with plea to free Turkish novelist
FRANKFURT - Agence France-PresseThe Frankfurt book fair opened on Oct. 18 with a plea for Turkey to release acclaimed author and rights activist Aslı Erdoğan, jailed along with other journalists in the aftermath of the July 15 coup attempt in Turkey.
European Parliament President Martin Schulz, in a speech at the annual fair’s opening ceremony, said he stood in “full solidarity” with the novelist, “and all authors and journalists languishing in Turkish jails.”
“Hear my clear appeal to the Turkish government: set these people free,” he said.
At the same ceremony, the head of the German Publishers and Booksellers Association, Heinrich Riethmüller, read out a letter from Erdoğan he said had been smuggled out of her Istanbul prison.
“I cry out to you from behind stones, concrete and barbed wire,” he quoted her as saying. “Conscience is being trampled upon in my country... they are trying to kill off the truth.”
Riethmüller urged the European Commission and the German government to press for her release and said visitors to the fair would be able to sign a petition calling for her freedom.
Erdoğan was arrested on Aug. 16 and remains in jail pending trial for writing articles for daily Özgür Gündem, which the government says has ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Twenty journalists were detained along with her, a month after the failed July 15 coup.
The 49-year-old writer is accused of being a member of an illegal organization as well as publishing “propaganda for a terrorist organization” and for “incitement to disorder,” her lawyer told AFP last month.
Erdoğan’s novels have been translated into several languages and her latest book, “The Stone Building,” describes the difficulties of detention in Turkey.
The five-day Frankfurt fair, which opens to the public on Oct. 19, is the world’s largest publishing event.