Turkey: Constitutional Court clears academics from spurious ‘terrorism propaganda’ charges

Reacting to news that Turkey’s Constitutional Court found the convictions of academics on charges of “making propaganda for a terrorist organization”, because they signed a peace petition in 2016, violated their right to freedom of expression, Amnesty International’s Turkey Campaigner, Milena Buyum said:

“The Constitutional Court confirmed what we always knew, that academics‘ petition calling for peace in no way represented a crime. It is a legitimate opinion protected under the right to freedom of expression, and the academics’ peaceful call has always been perfectly clear to all those who have read the petition.

The Constitutional Court confirmed what we always knew, that academics‘ petition calling for peace in no way represented a crime

Milena Buyum, Amnesty International’s Turkey Campaigner

“The scholars who signed the peace petition should never have faced criminal prosecution let alone jail sentences. This decision from Turkey’s highest court must halt the farcical prosecutions against them.

“The Court’s pronouncement is welcome but does not erase the unfair and arbitrary prosecutions of hundreds of academics who gave their signature in support of peace. It must however immediately bring an end to the prosecutions and overturn already issued convictions.”

Background:

The petition was launched on 11 January 2016 and called for a restart to peace negotiations with the armed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the government, criticizing military operations in the majority Kurdish south-east regions of Turkey. A total of 2,212 academics signed it.

Over 700 have been charged with “making propaganda for a terrorist organization”, with several convicted and sentenced to up to three years in jail. On 3 March 2019, a regional appeals court confirmed one year and three months prison sentence of one of the signatories, Professor Zübeyde Füsun Üstel. She was released from prison on 22 July following a court decision suspending the execution of her sentence pending an appeal. She is one of the applicants in the case the Constitutional Court decided upon on 26 July 2019.

Hundreds of the signatories were also arbitrarily dismissed or forced to resign from their jobs at various public and private universities in Turkey. Of those dismissed, 406 are also banned from public service for life as they were discharged through executive decrees issued during the two-year state of emergency for unspecified “links to terrorist organizations.”