More than 100 leading writers from across the world sent a letter to Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu on Wednesday asking the government to drop espionage charges against two Turkish journalists, reported The Guardian. This comes a day before the trial of Cumhuriyet editors Can Dündar and Erdem Gül who have been charged with revealing state secrets over a report alleging that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government tried to ship arms to Islamists in Syria. They might be jailed for life if proven guilty in court.

The letter was signed by Monica Ali, Margaret Atwood, JM Coetzee, Yann Martel, Elif Şhafak, Colm Tóibín and Mario Vargas Llosa, among others, as part of a campaign organised by free speech charity PEN International. “In recent years, the Turkish authorities have made extraordinary efforts to silence critics and dissent. This has had an impact on all areas of Turkish society. Current legislation and surveillance practices not only diminish freedom of speech for the country’s writers and journalists, but seriously threaten the fundamental rights and freedoms of tens of millions of individuals,” the letter states.

PEN International president Jennifer Clement said, “The fact that Can Dündar and Erdem Gül are facing life in prison simply for fulfilling their responsibilities as journalists demonstrates the sorry state of freedom of expression in Turkey.” She said there are 20 other writers languishing behind bars in the country, and scores of others who are under investigation or on trial "simply for peacefully exercising their right to free expression".