Turkish Court Maintains Top Novelist’s Foreign Travel Ban

Turkish novellist Asli Erdogan poses during an interview on February 8, 2017 in Istanbul. Internationally acclaimed Turkish novelist Asli Erdogan is still haunted by 'the shadow of prison' where she spent over four months, fearing it could begin again any time. But the writer insists she will not stay silent, …

ISTANBUL (AFP) –  A Turkish court on Tuesday kept in place a foreign travel ban for a top novelist charged with terror propaganda in a controversial case that has intensified concerns over freedom of speech in the country.

The Istanbul court maintained the ban for Asli Erdogan, who was released from jail last December but remains on trial, despite pleas from her to be allowed to leave Turkey temporarily to receive awards abroad.

Prior to her release, Erdogan, 49, was held for 132 days on terror propaganda charges during a probe into the now-closed Ozgur Gundem newspaper, which Ankara condemned as a mouthpiece for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Her detention sparked an international outcry, with critics saying freedom of expression had been drastically curtailed in Turkey following the crackdown in the wake of last July’s failed coup which sought to unseat President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Although the court had ordered her release, the charges and travel ban remained in place. If convicted, she could still face life imprisonment.

The court adjourned and the next hearing is due on June 22.

“She is an author and receiving a lot of awards,” her lawyer Erdal Dogan told the court, saying ceremonies were planned in Vienna, Basel and the Netherlands.

Asli Erdogan told the court: “I ask the removal of overseas travel ban temporarily, so that I can participate in award ceremonies abroad.”