Turkish court acquits gang leader over his ‘we’ll shower in your blood’ threat against academics

Gang leader Sedat Peker (L) speaks with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during a wedding ceremony in 2015.

Sedat Peker, a convicted gang leader and staunch supporter of Turkey’s Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was acquitted by a Turkish court on Friday in a case opened against him for an inflammatory statement he made targeting the academics who signed a petition calling for peace in early 2016.

“We will spill your blood in streams and we will shower in your blood,” said Peker in a message titled “The So-Called Intellectuals, the Bells Will Toll for You First,” posted to his personal website on Jan. 13.

He was indicted following an investigation into his threats by the Anadolu Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office in İstanbul, facing 11 years in prison. An İstanbul court on Friday ruled for acquittal for Sedat Peker by defending that ‘the elements of the crime did not occur.’

Peker’s lawyer, Turgay Özdoğan, stated that his client’s threats targeted terrorist groups and their supporters, arguing that the academics who signed a petition to halt military operations were supporting terrorism since they had been charged with it.

The Academics for Peace declaration was titled “We will not be party to this crime” and criticized the Turkish government for its violation of human rights and civil casualties among the predominantly Kurdish population of eastern Turkey. A total of 1,128 academics from various disciplines signed the peace declaration, a number that more than doubled with the support of many other academics, artists and public intellectuals from around the world.

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 President Erdoğan and led 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.

Peker earlier threatened many government and Erdoğan critics including followers of the Gülen movement. On July 15, 2017 Peker said they would hang all people linked to the Gülen movement from flagpoles and trees.

“They should pray for our president [Erdoğan], who they call a dictator. God forbid, if his visit to this world ends even in natural ways, they will see what a dictator is. God willing, we will hang all those who are sympathetic to them [Gülen movement], who walked with them, who didn’t leave them, on the nearest flagpole. We will hang them on the nearest tree,” Peker said during a visit to Çengelköy Martyrs Cemetery in İstanbul. An İstanbul court had also ruled for Peker’s acquittal despite his obvious confession of threats to commit a massacre.

Gang leader Peker, who has been convicted of several crimes, was given the “Most Benevolent Businessman” award by the Milliyet daily, run by the Demirören Group, which is close to Erdoğan in May 2017,

In a social media message in January 2017, Peker had also declared his support for the transition to an executive presidency in Turkey while threatening those who were against holding a referendum to vote on the change in the country’s system of governance.

He vowed to vote “yes” for the amendments to the constitution and said, “We will be waiting on the streets for those who take to the streets to prevent the referendum, just as we took to the streets on the night of the July 15 coup attempt.”

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