Thirty-two Turkish academics who signed a peace petition were called before a criminal court on Friday, where the prosecutor demanded the court sentence them to up to seven-and-a-half years in prison, Turkish news site Bianet reported.
In January 2016, 1,128 Turkish academics calling themselves “Academics for Peace” signed a petition titled “We will not be party to this crime” during a period of heavy fighting in Turkey’s Southeast between Turkish armed forces and militants affiliated with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The number of signatories later exceeded 2,000.
The peace petition demanded a peaceful solution and criticized Turkish security forces for a heavy-handed response that saw citizens confined under long-lasting curfews and areas in predominantly Kurdish cities under bombardment.
The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government led by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has accused the signatories of disseminating propaganda for the PKK. Many of the academics who signed the petition have been removed from their posts at the universities, and 48 had hearings on Friday. Three signatories were handed suspended jail sentences in February.
Meanwhile, a Turkish court sentenced Levent Tüzel, a former pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) deputy and Central Executive Board member of the country’s leftist Labor Party (EMEP), to one year, three months in prison for his participation in Nevruz celebrations, according to a report by online news outlet Diken.
Tüzel was tried for flouting the ”Law on Demonstrations and Public Meetings,’’ during a Kurdish new year’s festival in 2012, Diken said.
EMEP headquarters said in response to Tüzel’s jail sentence: “This decision is a clear violation of the right to engage in politics and to freedom of thought and expression while diverging from decisions of Turkey’s Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights [ECtHR]. We will continue our legal and political struggle against this decision.’’
The Turkish government revoked Tüzel’s passport following a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016 as part of a crackdown on opposition voices. The EMEP board member is on record for rejecting an invitation to participate in an interim election government in 2015 set up by then-Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu.