Peace academics in exile sued by Turkish gov’t over ‘propaganda of terror organization’

A lawsuit has been filed by the İstanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office against the 100 academics, who took refuge in Germany, over allegedly “propagandizing the terror organisation,” according to a news report by TR7/24 on Monday.

It was reported that, about 100 of the 1,128 scholars who had signed the peace declaration took refuge in Germany in June of 2016. İstanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office has stated that some of the academicians who have signed the declaration of “Academicians for Peace” have been sued for “propaganda for a terror organisation” at the beginning of October 2017.

According to artigercek.com, Süddeutsche Zeitung, NDR, and WDR television channels in Germany have brought the issue to the agenda. Dr. İlhan Döğüs, a research assistant at the Department of Social Economics at the University of Hamburg, one of the academics who signed the declaration saying “We will not be a part to this crime,” has stated that the investigations and cases against academicians in general have serious mental and morality deficiencies.

Döğüs said that “This case itself is a serious mental and morality problem. As a result, signing peace was the reaction to the massacres. Anyone who fulfilled the criteria of being a minimum human being would have to react to all of this.”

“Labelling the academics who signed the peace declaration as propagandists of terror is not a situation to be explained by morality,” said he. Adding that he believes Germany would not move according to Erdoğan’s order, Döğüş has continued that “It may be easy to file a lawsuit against academics within the borders of Turkey, but how to sue the academics living abroad is a serious curiosity. I do not think the Germany will act on the order of Erdoğan. All of this is small games played by Erdoğan in order to remain on the agenda.”

Academic Döğüş has also expressed that “Until three years ago you sat in the table with the people you called the terror organisation (the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). You praised the leader of the organization. Now you accuse Germany of supporting the organization. You did the same thing for Fethullah Gülen community. The AKP sees itself in the center of the world. Academicians have professional responsibilities to understand and change the world. It does not mean to approve everything what state does.”

One of the academicians who signed the peace declaration from Bremen University guest lecturer Dr. Çetin Gürer has also stated that there was not a notification that has reached their hands from the prosecutor’s office so far and said “Probably the investigation launched regarding us is completed, they are filing a lawsuit against the academicians who signed one by one. This is a pressure. The AKP government continues to follow us and put pressure on us. The fact taht the government runs after us is we said the truth.”

“We signed the declaration that the state was fighting illegally in the Kurdish provinces and this war was incompatible with the rule of law. The Erdoğan government had launched a war against the Kurds. He expected support from the society for his dirty war. For this he put pressure on the public. We did not condone the pressures and we ruined the philosophy of his battle. This lawsuit is in order to deter and intimidate us,” he said.

Stating that Erdoğan had grudges against the academics who took refuge in Germany, Gürer added that “Erdoğan is obsessed with specially for the academics who take refuge in Germany. He wants to put pressure on Germany in this regard. However, our studies and explanations should be consider on the basis of freedom of thought.”

Gürer, who stated that AKP government wanted academics to step back in their thoughts, said that “The truth can only be proceeded in science when the other is refuted. If the government wants they can refute our thoughts on how the civilians were killed, bullet types used and how the massacres were made.’  Scientist does not step back. Our arguments which haven’t been refuted shows that we are on the right track.”

Signatories of a peace declaration titled “We Will Not Be a Party to This [Turkish state’s] Crime” of January 2016 have been facing accusations of terrorist propaganda in Turkey also. An indictment filed by prosecutor İsmet Bozkur of the İstanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office accuses the academics for peace of “terrorist propaganda” and seeks a seven-and-a-half year prison sentence for signatories of the declaration. The accused academics are from various universities in İstanbul including İstanbul University, Galatasaray, Boğaziçi, Mimar Sinan, Nişantaşı and Yeni Yüzyıl.

Academics for peace demanded that the Turkish government put an end to blockades and curfews in Kurdish towns, avoid targeting civilians in the conflict with the PKK, reinstate necessary conditions for a cease-fire with the militants and ultimately secure an atmosphere for a sustainable peace between the Kurds and the Turkish state.

Published in early 2016, the peace declaration accuses the Turkish government of carrying out heavy-handed operations in Turkey’s southeastern region, where outlawed PKK militants and the military have been engaged in clashes since the breakdown of a cease-fire between the two in July 2015.

It was signed by more than 2,000 intellectuals from both inside and outside Turkey, including US philosopher Noam Chomsky.

The peace declaration frustrated Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, leading to retribution against the academics. Some of the insults Erdoğan used against them included “so-called intellectuals,” “a flock called intellectuals,” “traitors” and “rough copies of intellectuals.”

Hundreds of academics who signed the declaration were detained when police raided their homes and offices across Turkey after the declaration was announced on Jan. 11, 2016, while hundreds of them were removed from their jobs.

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