Turkish court indicts academics on trumped-up terrorism charges for signing peace declaration

nsnbc : An indictment has been issued for academics from İstanbul, Galatasaray, Bogazici, Mimar Sinan, Nisantasi and Yeni Yüzyil Universities who have signed the peace declaration “We will not be a party to this crime”. The academics are being charged with “propagandizing for a terrorist organization” and are facing 7,5 years in prison. Prosecutor Ismet Bozkurt has filed the indictment for the investigation carried out by İstanbul Public Chief Prosecutor’s Office. The number of academics against whom a lawsuit has been filed is not known yet as these lawsuits are being filed separately but there could me more than a thousand.

The Peace Declaration of the Academics “We will not be a party to this crime” was shared with the public on January 11, 2016 during 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 declaration read:

“We ask the state to put an end to violence inflicted against citizens right now, we as academics and researchers of this country declare that we won’t be a party to this crime and that promise that we will sustain our stance in the presence of political parties, parliament and international public”.

Over 1,400 academics and researchers from Turkey and abroad have signed the statement titled “We will not be a party to this crime”.

Academics for Peace which has initiated the campaign has shared their next steps and signees in the press statement held simultaneously in İstanbul and Ankara.

1,128 academics from 89 universities in Turkey, and over 355 academics and researchers from abroad including figures such as Noam Chomsky, Judith Butler, Etienne Balibar and David Harvey have signed a text calling on state of Turkey to end state violence and prepare negotiation conditions.

The petition is ongoing.

As academics and researchers of this country, we will not be a party to this crime!

“The Turkish state has effectively condemned its citizens in Sur, Silvan, Nusaybin, Cizre, Silopi, and many other towns and neighborhoods in the Kurdish provinces to hunger through its use of curfews that have been ongoing for weeks. It has attacked these settlements with heavy weapons and equipment that would only be mobilized in wartime. As a result, the right to life, liberty, and security, and in particular the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment protected by the constitution and international conventions have been violated.

This deliberate and planned massacre is in serious violation of Turkey’s own laws and international treaties to which Turkey is a party. These actions are in serious violation of international law.

We demand the state to abandon its deliberate massacre and deportation of Kurdish and other peoples in the region. We also demand the state to lift the curfew, punish those who are responsible for human rights violations, and compensate those citizens who have experienced material and psychological damage. For this purpose we demand that independent national and international observers to be given access to the region and that they be allowed to monitor and report on the incidents.

We demand the government to prepare the conditions for negotiations and create a road map that would lead to a lasting peace which includes the demands of the Kurdish political movement. We demand inclusion of independent observers from broad sections of society in these negotiations. We also declare our willingness to volunteer as observers. We oppose suppression of any kind of the opposition.

We, as academics and researchers working on and/or in Turkey, declare that we will not be a party to this massacre by remaining silent and demand an immediate end to the violence perpetrated by the state. We will continue advocacy with political parties, the parliament, and international public opinion until our demands are met”. (BK/TK) (Full text here)

All of the academics face charges under Article 7(2) of the Turkish Anti-Terror Act which reads:

Turkish Anti-Terror Act – 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.

Prosecutor Bozkurt claimed in the bill of indictment, that the peace declaration was “an overt propaganda for Kurdistan Worker’s Party/Kurdistan Communities Union (PKK/KCK)”. The indictment reads:

“It has been revealed, that the main purpose of the declaration is to build public support to stop military operations carried out in order to secure peace and safety of the citizens and clean the areas, where the PKK/KCK terrorist organization has declared a ‘self-governance’ from the terrorist. On these grounds, the Public Chief Execution has launched an investigation under “propagandizing for the terrorist organization”.

Among the cited crimes in the indictment, also a solidarity declaration that was issued by the academics in order to support academics Assoc. Prof. Dr. Esra Mungan, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Meral Camci, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Muzaffer Kaya and Asst. Prof. Dr. Kıvanc Ersoy who were taken into custody and were kept in detention on remand for a month for reading out the first peace declaration of the academics. The Prosecutor’s Office accused the academics supporting their colleagues behind bars of “preventing the suspects from withdrawing their signatures from the [peace] declaration and to demonstrate that they could still challenge the Republic of Turkey by insisting on the propagandizing for the terrorist organization of PKK/KCK”.

The prosecutor has also argued in the bill of indictment, that “those who prepared the declaration, had changed some expressions in the Turkish and English on purpose and made little touches on the declarations which were submitted to foreigners to be signed.

The prosecutor has also addressed Bilgi University academic member Chris Stephenson from the “Academics for Peace” who was detained in Istanbul Courthouse while supporting three academics who were detained in March 2016 and were arrested for signing the peace declaration. In the indictment, Stephenson was accused of carrying materials for “terrorist propaganda” in his bag while coming to the court on purpose and for seeking support for the defamation smearing campaign against Turkey on international community.

A lawsuit was filed against Stephenson over “terrorist propaganda” and he was acquitted in the first hearing of his trial on June 23, 2016 as the charges cited in the bill of indictment did not constitute a crime according to the law.  The materials claimed to be materials for “terrorist propaganda” were leaflets for Newroz (New Year) celebrations prepared by the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

F/AK – nsnbc 06.10.2017