An Istanbul court on Dec. 24 ordered the confiscation of part of the assets belonging to the dissident writer Ragıp Zarakolu as part of an ongoing trial known as the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) Istanbul main trial.
The Istanbul 3rd Heavy Penal Court said that the confiscation decision was given to make Zarakolu come to Turkey and thereby obtain his defense.
The court said the writer's pensions given by the Social Security Institution (SGK) will be also confiscated and the confiscation order will be lifted once Zarakolu "is caught or surrenders himself."
Zarakolu has been living in Sweden since 2013 and has faced a number of court cases in Turkey prior to and since then.
The 71-year-old writer has long been known for his anti-establishment views and has been persecuted by various governments in Turkey for decades due to his writing on touchy subjects including the Kurdish issue and the Armenian Genocide.
In October 2011, he was arrested due to attending and giving a speech at the opening ceremony of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), the predecessor to the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).
Zarakolu was to be tried in the KCK trial, which was pursued against what was considered a confederation of Kurdish organizations including the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), though he was released in 2012. In that year, he was selected as a Nobel Peace Prize candidate by the Swedish parliament.
In 2016, Zarakolu's house in Turkey was raided by police and an arrest warrant was issued on his behalf regarding a separate trial. Following a request from his lawyer in 2017, the arrest warrant was thrown out and his defense was received by a Swedish court. Afterwards, a new arrest warrant was issued for Zarakolu on the grounds that he had not given his statement in the KCK trial in 2012, leading Ankara to file an extradition request for the writer in October of 2018.
In September of this year, a Swedish prosecutor requested that Turkey’s extradition request for Zarakolu be rejected, and on Dec. 18 the prosecutor's request was approved by Sweden’s Supreme Court. The Swedish high court said it rejected Turkey's demand for extradition as it would be in violation of the Article 4 of the European Convention.
On Dec. 24, Zarakolu's lawyer reitereated her client's demand that the defense be obtained through letters rogatory, which are the means of obtaining judicial assistance from courts of other countries.
“We have submitted our client's address to your court. Although he is standing trial with life imprisonment in other courts, our demand to have his defense obtained through letters rogatory were accepted [by these other courts]. This court [Istanbul 3rd Heavy Penal Court] however did not accept our demand. We are of the opinion that his defense can be obtained through letters rogatory and reiterate our demand. Your court's request from Sweden that my client be extradited has been also rejected,” said Sennur Baybuğa at the hearing.
The court however rejected the lawyer's demand to rely on letters rogatory, “taking into account the lower limit of the penalty of the crime that the defendant in question faces.”