Pınar Selek trial: Turkish Ministry deems French university festival 'PKK event'

Despite being acquitted four times in a case concerning the explosion in Istanbul’s Spice Bazaar in 1998, exiled sociologist Pınar Selek stood trial once again. In a letter sent to the court, the Turkish Interior Ministry claimed that Selek in 2024 had attended a “PKK event,” which was revealed to be an event organized by French universities.

Duvar English

A hearing of the case concerning sociologist Pınar Selek, who was previously acquitted four times in the case related to the 1998 Spice Bazaar explosion, was held at the Istanbul 14th Heavy Penal Court on June 28.

Pınar Selek has been held responsible for the explosion in Istanbul in which seven people were killed and 127 injured. The trial against Selek has been going on for 26 years.

Following the reversal decision by the Court of Cassation on her acquttial, Selek is now facing aggravated life imprisonment once again.

The court panel decided to continue the arrest of Selek and adjourned the trial to Feb. 7, 2025.

Many Turkish and French lawyers, including Selek's lawyer father Alp Selek, and civil society organizations attended the last hearing. The presiding judge asked the French lawyers who were not registered with the Turkish bar associations to sit in the protocol section.

Selek was put on trial based on the testimony of a man named Abdülmecit Öztürk, although police reports stated that no evidence of a bomb had been found.

Öztürk's lawyer also asked for his client's arrest warrant to be lifted at the last hearing.

Interior Ministry deems French university festival 'PKK event'

On June 3, the Turkish Interior Ministry sent a letter to the court stating that Selek attended an outlawed “Kurdistan Workers’ Party PKK event” in France, where she has been living since 2009.

"It has been reported that Pınar Selek attended an event organized by members of the PKK/KCK terrorist organization in Nice, France in April 2024," the letter read, emphasizing the arrest warrant for Selek.

Can Bursalı from Gazete Duvar reached the details of the event, held on April 11 at Villa Arson, an art school affiliated with the French Culture Ministry.

The event was part of the Migration Spring Festival organized by the Université Côte d'Azur, Université Paris Cité, French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), and the Migrations and Society Research Unit (URMIS).

Selek acted as facilitator and moderator in a joint event orchestrated by many state institutions and non-governmental organizations. Following the Turkish ministry's letter to the court, the universities and institutes organizing the event issued a statement in support of Selek.

The declaration emphasized that the letter sent by the ministry to the court questioned the seriousness and integrity of the academic activities. 

"'Women in Exile: The Situation of Kurdish Women' was definitely not organized by the PKK, but by our institution with the support of the Université Côte d'Azur under the Higher Education and Research Ministry," the statement read.

Selek's lawyer Bahri Belen also submitted a petition regarding the matter and stated that the document sent by the ministry to the court is "as much an act of incompetence in creating a new false document about Selek as it is a disgraceful document that openly accuses the French academia."

He also stated that the document submitted by the Interior Ministry was untrue and requested the court to file a criminal complaint against the authorities who drafted it. The court rejected Belen's request "as there was no action to be taken."

"This is an attempt to influence the court," the lawyer underscored.

What happened?

The Turkish government's targeting of Selek began in 1997 with her research on the Kurdish issue. Selek was detained by the police in 1998 and was severely tortured. Her research materials at the time were confiscated because she refused to give the names of the people she interviewed.

Selek was detained after the 1998 Spice Bazaar explosion and was accused of planting a bomb with the testimony of a man named Abdülmecit Öztürk. The defendants in the case later declared that they had been severely tortured and that they did not know Selek. Crime scene investigation reports also said that there were no traces of a bomb, and the cause of the explosion was related to a gas leakage. 

Released in the early 2000s, Selen was first acquitted of the charges in 2006. Despite being acquitted four times of the relevant charges, the court rulings were always overturned. The last acquittal decision was overturned in 2022. 

Amid the ongoing trials against her, Selen left Turkey in 2009 and has been since living in France.