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Published On: Tue, Dec 5th, 2017

Trial against Turkish academics a futile attempt to oppress dissent: Lehmann

nsnbc : The first hearings of 148 of the 1,128 academics in Turkey who are standing trial for having signed the so-called “Peace Declaration of Academics for Peace” and for allegedly being involved in “terror propaganda” began on December 5 in Istanbul. The hearings are scheduled to continue until May 17, 2018. Conducting the trials, Turkey is under suspicion of violating fundamental human rights.

Turkish academics at court in Istanbul_Turkey_Dec 2017Ten academics from Istanbul University and Galatasaray University stood trial before the Istanbul 35th Assize Court in Caglayan. Eight of the ten academics appeared before the judge in separate hearings while one was assigned abroad and another one had a medical report. The Court rejected acquittal requests and the request to combine the cases. The next hearing will be on April 12, 2018.

The indictment prepared by Prosecutor Ismet Bozkurt charges the accused with “propagandizing for a terrorist organization”. The academics are facing up to 7.5 years in prison each. The charges are based on Article 7/2 of the Turkish Anti-Terror Act and Article 53 of the Turkish Penal Code. The Article reads:

Article 7(2)

Any person making propaganda for a terrorist organisation shall be punished with imprisonment from one to five years. If this crime is committed through means of mass media, the penalty shall be aggravated by one half. In addition, editors-in-chief (…)2 … who have not participated in the perpetration of the crime shall be punished with a judicial fine from one thousand to fifteen thousand days’ rates. However, the upper limit of this sentence for editors-in-chief is five thousand days’ rates.

According to the indictment, the evidences regarding the alleged crime are:

• The investigation report that concerns the statement of Bese Hozat–the co-president of the PKK/KCK terrorist organization’s executive committee–that is dated December 27, 2015.-;

• The investigation reports on the academics who signed the petition (suspects) concerning the press declarations on January 11, 2016 (first declaration) and March 10, 2016 (second declaration) that are allegedly of a supportive nature in favor of PKK/KCK terrorist organization;

• Records of statement and interrogation reports of the suspects and the arrest warrants issued for them.

148 academics who are among the first ones of the 1,128 academics to stand trial are from the following universities:

Galatasaray University, İstanbul University, Yıldız Teknik University, İstanbul Teknik University, Marmara University, Boğaziçi University, Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, Yeni Yüzyıl University, Apriltaşı University, Kadir Has University, Özyeğin University, Bahçeşehir University, Kemerburgaz University, Arel University and Işık University.

The Peace Declaration of the Academics “We will not be a party to this crime” was shared with the public on January 11, 2016 in a press conference. 1,128 academics from 89 universities as well as over 355 academics and researchers from abroad had signed the peace declaration.

The trial is attracting attention in Turkey, but also abroad, because Turkish authorities are, arguably, violating fundamental human rights including the right to free speech and expression.

Tatiana - Popova/Shutterstock

Tatiana – Popova/Shutterstock

During a meeting Tuesday morning, nsnbc international editor-in-chief Christof Lehmann noted that “The prosecution equates the call for dialog with the PKK and the reservation of the right to actively participate in the political discourse as well as the right to  civil disobedience, and the public dissemination of the – Peace Declaration – as terrorist propaganda”.

“The situation can be compared with German authorities desperate, failed, and illegal attempt to silence those who would call for dialog with leftist militants from the 1960s through the early 2000, the imprisonment of those who disseminated statements issued by groups like the Red Army Faction (RAF), the Revolutionary Cells (RZ) and others, the jailing even of those who printed or reproduced materials. In the end it achieved little, other than that it contributed to radicalizing those who encouraged dialog and those who were courageous enough to act because a dialog is impossible when the State usurps the right to determine what may and what may not be expressed. .. It’s a failed and tragic policy that leads to nothing but misery, death and destruction,” he said.

Lehmann continued stressing that “Turkey is definitely on the wrong path if it wants closer ties with the European Union, and that even though human rights are also, increasingly being subverted there.”  “I must say it, again, and again, the United Nations Human Rights Committee is clear and unambiguous with regard to these problems. Speech that is conveying controversial political issues, speech that is considered insulting, even speech that insults those in position of power, should never be the basis of a criminal prosecution.” “So, let’s use that right, with moderation, and say Erdogan and his minions are foolish to believe they can silence dissent by jailing Turkey’s academics. It won’t work, “ he concluded.

F/AK – nsnbc 05.12.2017

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