Turkish court releases Erdoğan critic Hanifi Barış, a Scottish university academic

Lawyer Hanifi Barış, an outspoken Aberdeen University academic who has been jailed in Turkey since July 4, 2018 for posting critical comments on social media about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was released on probation by a Turkish court on Tuesday.

Barış, who is also among the Academics for Peace who signed a declaration titled “We will not be a party to this crime,” had his first hearing on Tuesday.

According to a report by Bianet, Barış presented his defense at the court and said: “I do not think my social media posts constitute a crime. I am in shock. The highest priority of academics is to share the information they obtain, and social media is one of its tools.”

His lawyer, Ahmet Baran, has demanded that the court release and acquit Barış, but the court ruled to release him from pretrial detention with an international travel ban. The trial was adjourned until December 11, 2018.

A graduate of Aberdeen University’s Centre of Citizenship, Civil Society and Rule of Law with a Ph.D. last year, Barış was arrested by police in İstanbul in July for “posting items with criminal content on Facebook and Twitter accounts,” according to Scotland-based The Press and Journal.

Barış, who moved to Turkey after leaving Aberdeen last year to be with his wife and family, was put behind bars for speaking out against President Erdoğan. The Aberdeen University graduate, who previously practiced law for several years in Turkey and specializes in political theory, uploaded a number of articles denouncing President Erdoğan towards the end of June, when the Turkish leader secured victory in a national election.

Barış was due to return to Scotland in September as a keynote speaker at a convention of Aberdeen University’s Centre for Citizenship, Civil Society and Rule of Law.

His academic colleagues at Aberdeen University had launched a petition calling for his immediate release. “Hanifi is a gifted, well-respected and dearly loved scholar and friend. We demand justice for our esteemed colleague,” the petition said.

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