France - Turkey

Turkish court scraps life sentence on academic who has fled to France

Pinar Selek in Strasbourg earlier this year
Pinar Selek in Strasbourg earlier this year AFP

Turkey’s appeals court has scrapped a life sentence handed down to an academic who has fled to France. But Pinar Selek must stand trial again, even though experts found that the bomb she was supposed to have planted was actually a gas leak.


The court in Ankara overturned Selek’s conviction to life in prison and ordered a new trial on charges that she planted a bomb on Istanbul’s spice market in 1998, killing seven and wounding hundreds of others.

The prosecution accused the sociologist, who is now 43, who was a human-rights activist and defender of Turkey’s Kurdish minority, of planning the attack and planting the bomb on behalf of the separatist Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK).

She was freed in 2003 after an experts’ report concluded that the deadly explosion was caused by a gas leak.

One of the main prosecution witnesses also retracted, leading to three subsequent trials – in 2006, 2008 and 2011, ended with her being found not guilty only to have their judgements overturned by the appeals court.

In 2012 a court ordered a new trial with a different judge and in 2013 she was sentenced to life in prison.

Selek fled Turkey in 2009 and now lives in Strasbourg, eastern France, having been granted political asylum.

An international arrest warrant requested by Ankara was lifted in February after French President François Hollande visited Turkey, sources say.

A support campaign has won support from academics and rights groups in France.

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