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Judicial harassment against the members of Academics for Peace

Status: 
Sentenced
About the situation

On 8 May 2019, Academic for Peace Prof. Zübeyde Füsun Üstel surrendered herself to Eskişehir Women’s Closed Prison. The human rights defender was sentenced to one year and three months in jail for signing the petition “We will not be a party to this crime!”.

A member of Academics for Peace, Prof. Zübeyde Füsun Üstel, whose 1 year and 3 months prison sentence was upheld on 25 February 2019, is due to begin her prison sentence within ten days. The human rights defender was convicted based on charges of disseminating “terrorist propaganda” for signing a petition drafted in January 2016 by Academics for Peace, calling for a peaceful resolution to the conflict in the mostly Kurdish-populated southeastern provinces. She will be the first Academic for Peace to enter jail.

Between 24 January and 11 April 2019, prison sentences were handed down to 93 academics who signed the peace petition drafted by Academics for Peace in January 2016. They were all sentenced on charges of disseminating “terrorist propaganda”.

On 25 February 2019, the 3rd Panel Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice upheld the 15 month prison sentence for Prof. Zubeyde Fusun Ustel which was handed down by the 32nd High Criminal Court on 4 April 2018. Prof. Ustel was charged with “terrorist propaganda” for signing a peace petition drafted by Academics for Peace in January 2016. With this decision, her sentence is now final.

Between 17 December 2018 to 24 January 2019, prison sentences were handed down to 28 academics who had signed the peace petition drafted by Academics for Peace in January 2016. They were all sentenced on charges of creating “terrorist propaganda”. Twenty-five academics received suspended sentences of one year and three months, but  the sentences of three academics, including Dr. Yonca Demir and Prof. Şebnem Korur Fincancı, were not suspended. They received prison sentences of between two years and one month, and three years. 

About Academics for Peace

Academics for PeaceAcademics for Peace is an organisation founded in November 2012 that unites more than 2,000 individuals supporting peace in the south-east of Turkey They are among the 1128 signatories of a petition released in January 2016 calling for an end to violence in the region. In the petition, the signatories said that they were condemning both the state violence against the Kurds and the Turkish state’s ongoing violation of its own laws and international treaties.

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9 May 2019
Member of Academics for Peace, Zübeyde Füsun Üstel, begins jail term

On 8 May 2019, Academic for Peace Prof. Zübeyde Füsun Üstel surrendered herself to Eskişehir Women’s Closed Prison. The human rights defender was sentenced to one year and three months in jail for signing the petition “We will not be a party to this crime!”.

The day before, on 7 May 2019, a number of Academics for Peace and her students gathered in front of the Istanbul Court House to show solidarity with Prof. Zübeyde Füsun Üstel. At the event, the human rights defender stated: "I want you to know this: We are not at the point where the word ends. On the contrary, we are at the point where it begins. We will further defend our rights as citizens, as individuals, and we will raise our demand for living in peace."

The human rights defender was convicted on charges of disseminating “terrorist propaganda” for signing a petition “We will not be a party to this crime!” drafted in January 2016 by Academics for Peace, calling for a peaceful resolution to the conflict in the mostly Kurdish-populated southeastern provinces. On 25 February 2019, the 3rd Panel Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice upheld the verdict in her case. She is the first Academic for Peace to have entered jail.

8 May 2019
Member of Academics for Peace, Zübeyde Füsun Üstel, due to begin prison sentence

A member of Academics for Peace, Prof. Zübeyde Füsun Üstel, whose 1 year and 3 months prison sentence was upheld on 25 February 2019, is due to begin her prison sentence within ten days. The human rights defender was convicted based on charges of disseminating “terrorist propaganda” for signing a petition drafted in January 2016 by Academics for Peace, calling for a peaceful resolution to the conflict in the mostly Kurdish-populated southeastern provinces. She will be the first Academic for Peace to enter jail.

Zübeyde Füsun Üstel, is a well-known academic in the field of political science. She was a faculty member of the Department of Political Science at Galatasaray University. Apart from her academic studies, she has a long history working in civil society organisations, particularly at Citizens Assembly and History Foundation in Turkey.

Academics for Peace are the signatories of the petition “We will not be a party to this crime!” (also known as the “peace petition”), publicized in January 2016. The petition condemned the security operations conducted by Turkish authorities in the mostly Kurdish-populated southeastern provinces because of their disastrous impact on the civilian population. The petition drew attention to the human rights violations committed during the operations and called for a peaceful resolution to the conflict. In total, 2212 academics signed it. Since then, they have been subjected to numerous human rights violations, including judicial harassment and smear campaigns.

On 4 April 2018, the 32nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul sentenced Zübeyde Füsun Üstel to 1 year and 3 months in jail, based on the charge of disseminating “terrorist propaganda”. As provided in the procedural rules, she was asked by the court whether she wanted the pronouncement of the verdict to be delayed, if the court ruled that such a delay could be applied. The human rights defender refused as this would have denied her a right to appeal her sentence and to further defend her position that calling for peace does not constitute a crime.

Article 231 of the Turkish Criminal Procedure Code allows for the pronouncement of a judgement to be delayed, which does not equate to suspending a sentence. When the pronouncement of a sentence is delayed, this sentence does not have a legal effect on the accused and does not appear in their criminal record, provided that they are not charged with any other crimes during a five year probation period. This provision is particularly relevant to the case of Academics for Peace, since having the verdicts in their criminal records, the academics lose their status as civil servants and with it, the ability to work as scholars at Turkish universities. In accepting a delay, the convict loses the right to launch an appeal of the verdict. Therefore, despite the risk of losing their ability to work as scholars, some of the defendants, including Zübeyde Füsun Üstel, have refused to accept the delay of the pronouncement of the judgement in order to retain the right to appeal.

The 32nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul did not suspend the execution of Zübeyde Füsun Üstel’s sentence, on the grounds that the human rights defender had not shown any remorse regarding the alleged crime. On 25 February 2019, the 3rd Panel Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice upheld the verdict in her case, thus making it final. On 30 April 2019, the he human rights defender received official notice stating that she should surrender herself to court to begin her prison term within ten days.

This is the first case concerning Academics for Peace which has been ruled on by the Court of Appeals. Therefore, this ruling is likely to set a precedent for other related cases pending appeal.

Since 2016, many Turkish academics, including Zübeyde Füsun Üstel, have been subjected to human rights violations due to their calls for peace. As of 30 April 2019, 549 members of Academics for Peace have been dismissed from their jobs either directly by their universities or by emergency decrees issued during the last state of emergency. Further, many scholars were forced to resign or retire. Four hundred and six academics lost their right to work in the public sector through statutory decrees. Hundreds have had their passports cancelled and confiscated. Many have not been able to find new jobs due to stigmatisation and some have even received threats. Since the petition was launched, nearly 70 academics have been taken into custody, while four, who gave a press statement to inform the public about the unjust treatment of Academics for Peace, were kept in detention for more than two months.

Currently, 691 academics are facing judicial harassment and the threat of imprisonment. One hundred and eighty five have been sentenced on charges of disseminating “terrorist propaganda”. The pronouncement of judgements has been delayed in 149 cases. Thirty six academics, including Zübeyde Füsun Üstel, have received prison sentences, suspended only in four cases. The legal proceedings concerning 506 academics remain ongoing.

19 April 2019
Prison sentences handed down to 93 Academics for Peace

Between 24 January and 11 April 2019, prison sentences were handed down to 93 academics who signed the peace petition drafted by Academics for Peace in January 2016. They were all sentenced on charges of disseminating “terrorist propaganda”.

Seventy of the academics received sentences of between 1 year and 3 months and 1 year 10 months and 15 days between 24 January and 11 April 2019. The Court deferred the pronouncement of all judgements, except for one academic, Aslı Takanay who did not accept the deferral. As per Article 231 of the Turkish Criminal Procedural Code, it is at the discretion of the court to defer the pronouncement of the judgement in cases where the prison sentence is two years or less if the accused gives their consent. Deferring the pronouncement of the judgement means that it does not have a legal effect on the accused and does not appear on their criminal records provided the accused is not charged with any further crimes during a five year probation period. However in accepting a deferral, the accused loses their right to appeal the decision to the higher courts. Therefore, some defendants choose to reject the deferral in order to challenge the decision in the higher courts. The court still ruled to suspend the execution of the imprisonment of Aslı Takanay, which means she will not lose her right to appeal the decision but the verdict will appear in her criminal record and she will be subject to a two-year probation period. It is important to note that having the verdict in their criminal record, the academics lose their status as civil servants and with it, the ability to work as scholars at Turkish universities.

Twenty three of the academics received prison sentences of between 2 years and 1 month and 2 years and 6 months between 24 January 2019 and 11 April 2019. The Courts did not reduce their sentences on the grounds of “their attitude and behaviour during the hearings of not showing any expression of remorse about the crime they committed”. Since their prison sentences exceeded two years, the judgements could not be deferred and the execution of their sentences could not be suspended. The verdicts have been appealed.

The Academics for Peace are the signatories of the petition “We will not be a party to this crime!” which was publicized  in January 2016. The petition condemned the Turkish government’s security operations against the PKK youth movement in cities of south-east Turkey because of the disastrous impact of the operations on the Kurdish civilian population. In total, 2212 academics signed the petition, since then the signatories have been subject to heavy pressure and persecution. Many of them face criminal and disciplinary investigations, custody, imprisonment, or violent threats. As of 18 April 2019, in total 549 of them have been dismissed or suspended from their jobs at universities, some others were forced to resign or leave the country. Four hundred and six of them lost their right to work in the public sector through statutory decrees. The passports of hundreds of them have been cancelled and confiscated. Many of them have been prevented from finding new jobs while several have been physically and verbally threatened.

As of 18 April 2019, 691 face judicial harassment. Close to 70 academics have been taken into custody, while four of them who read a press statement to inform the public about the unjust treatment of the Academics for Peace were kept in detention for more than two months. A hundred and eighty-five academics have been sentenced on charges of disseminating “terrorist propaganda”. Thirty six academics have been sentenced to imprisonment, yet the execution of their imprisonment has been suspended for four of them. The judgements of 149 academics have been deferred. The legal proceedings of 506 academics remain ongoing.

Front Line Defenders condemns the continuing judicial harassment against the members of Academics for Peace in Turkey, which it believes is related to their peaceful work in defence of the rights of others.

 

21 March 2019
First decision from Court of Appeal upholds prison sentence of Academic for Peace

On 25 February 2019, the 3rd Panel Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice upheld the 15 month prison sentence for Prof. Zubeyde Fusun Ustel which was handed down by the 32nd High Criminal Court on 4 April 2018. Prof. Ustel was charged with “terrorist propaganda” for signing a peace petition drafted by Academics for Peace in January 2016. With this decision, her sentence is now final. The human rights defender did not accept an option to have her verdict suspended under Article 231 of the Turkish Law on Criminal Courts. If she had done so, she would have been subject to supervision during a probation term of five years. During this time, if she were to be found guilty of any other crime, her original sentence would have been added to any new sentence handed down.

One of the three judges on the panel opposed the verdict stating that the human rights defender’s offence did not constitute "propaganda of a terrorist organisation" but it rather constituted "degrading the state", and so she should instead be tried under Article 301 of the Law on Criminal Courts.

This is the first Academics for Peace case which has been ruled on by the Court of Appeals. There are 27 further cases waiting to be heard.

24 January 2019
Members of Academics for Peace Sentenced

Between 17 December 2018 to 24 January 2019, prison sentences were handed down to 28 academics who had signed the peace petition drafted by Academics for Peace in January 2016. They were all sentenced on charges of creating “terrorist propaganda”. Twenty-five academics received suspended sentences of one year and three months, but  the sentences of three academics, including Dr. Yonca Demir and Prof. Şebnem Korur Fincancı, were not suspended. They received prison sentences of between two years and one month, and three years.

On 24 January 2019, Istanbul’s 24th High Criminal Court sentenced Dr. Yonca Demir to three years in prison, the longest prison sentence given in the Academics for Peace trials so far. The Court refused to reduce her sentence on the grounds that she behaved “improperly” after signing the petition and during the hearings. The Court also stated in the ruling that her sentence was increased to three years because “the crime was committed via the press”.

Dr. Yonca Demir’s lawyer was not given the opportunity to present her defense in full because the Court interrupted her on the grounds that her statement was not relevant to the alleged crime and constituted terrorist propaganda. The lawyer had been listing the national and international reports confirming the human rights violations that the peace petition mentioned. The Court also threatened to dismiss the lawyer from the courtroom as she was allegedly “talking loudly, disrupting the order of the hearing and attempting to delay the judgment.”

On 19 December 2018, Istanbul’s 37th High Criminal Court sentenced Prof. Şebnem Korur Fincancı to 2 years and 6 months in prison. Interviews she made with newspapers, and the preliminary report on her visit to Cizre in 2016 as president of Human Rights Association, was recently added to her case file as evidence.

The Court stated in the ruling that “the prison sentence was given taking into consideration her statements in the press before and after the crime, and her description of Turkish military operations as brutal, an attempted genocide, a war crime and an attack on Kurdish people in general.” The Court further stated that “her prison sentence was increased to 2 years and 6 months as the peace petition was publicised through press.” Furthermore, the Court refused to reduce her prison time on the grounds that “she did not show remorse for signing the petition and behaved ‘improperly’ during the hearings.”

Academics for Peace is an organisation founded in November 2012 that unites more than 2,000 individuals supporting peace in the south-east of Turkey. To date, the first hearings of 450 academics have been concluded, and criminal proceedings against many others are ongoing.  Ninety academics, including the 28 mentioned above, received prison sentences, the longest being three years. All sentences were suspended, except for 10 cases. Should their appeal be unsuccessful, the 10 academics will begin serving their sentences.

17 December 2018
Prison sentences handed down to 28 members of Academics for Peace

From 26 October to 17 December 2018, the first hearings of more than 100 members of Academics for Peace were held, and prison sentences were handed down to 28 academics. They were all sentenced on charges of creating “terrorist propaganda” for having signed the peace petition drafted by Academics for Peace in January 2016. While 23 academics received suspended prison sentences of one year and three months and one year and six months, the sentences of five academics were not suspended and they received prison sentences of between one year and three months and two years and three months.

In the case of Prof. Dr. Gençay Gürsoy who received a two year and three month prison sentence on 11 December 2018, Istanbul’s 37th High Criminal Court refused to reduce his prison time on the grounds that he did not show remorse for signing the petition and behaved “improperly” during the hearings. The Court further stated that he continued to promote the petition via press interviews and on his social media account. The academic was not given the opportunity to present a statement on the press interview and his social media posts, which were recently added to his case file.

Academics for Peace is an organisation founded in November 2012 that unites more than 2,000 individuals supporting peace in the south-east of Turkey. To date, the first hearings of 429 academics have been concluded, and criminal proceedings against many others are ongoing. Sixty two academics, including the 28 mentioned above, received prison sentences, the longest being two years and three months. All sentences were suspended, except for seven cases, including the cases of Füsun Üstel and Büşra Ersanlı. Should their appeal be unsuccessful, the seven academics will be detained to begin serving their sentences.

26 October 2018
Prison sentences handed down to eight members of Academics for Peace

During the period from 26 September to 26 October 2018, prison sentences were handed down to eight members of Academics for Peace. They were all sentenced to one year and three months in prison on charges of creating “terrorist propaganda” for having signed the peace petition drafted by Academics for Peace in January 2016. All sentences were suspended.

Academics for Peace is an organisation founded in November 2012 that unites more than 2,000 individuals supporting peace in the south-east of Turkey. To date, the first hearings of 353 academics have been concluded, and criminal proceedings against many others are ongoing. 33 academics, including the eight mentioned above, were sentenced to one year and three months in prison. All sentences were suspended, except in the cases of Füsun Üstel and Büşra Ersanlı. Should their appeal be unsuccessful, the two academics will be detained to begin serving their sentences.

26 September 2018
Prison sentences handed down to two members of Academics for Peace

On 25 September 2018, the hearings of 11 members of Academics for Peace concluded in Istanbul’s various criminal courts. The 28th High Criminal Court sentenced two academics to one year and three months in prison on charges of creating “terrorist propaganda” for having signed the peace petition drafted by Academics for Peace in January 2016. The sentences of two academics were suspended. The cases of the other nine academics remain ongoing.

Academics for Peace is an organisation founded in November 2012 that unites more than 2,000 individuals supporting peace in the South-East of Turkey. To date, the first hearings of 279 academics have been concluded, and criminal proceedings against many others are ongoing. Twenty-five academics, including the two mentioned above, were sentenced to one year and three months in prison. All sentences were suspended, except in the cases of Füsun Üstel and Büşra Ersanlı.

20 September 2018
Prison sentences handed down to four members of Academics for Peace

On 18 September 2018, the third hearing of four members of Academics for Peace concluded in Istanbul’s 28th High Criminal Court. All four were sentenced to one year and three months in prison on charges of creating “terrorist propaganda” for having signed the peace petition drafted by the Academics for Peace in January 2016. The sentences of all four academics were suspended.

Academics for Peace is an organisation founded in November 2012 that unites more than 2,000 individuals supporting peace in the south-east of Turkey. To date, the first hearings of 273 academics have concluded, and criminal proceedings against many others are ongoing. 23 Academics have been sentenced to one year and three months in prison. All sentences were suspended with the exception of those handed down to Füsun Üstel and Büşra Ersanlı.

6 June 2018
Two members of Academics for Peace sentenced to 1 year and 3 months in prison

On 5 June 2018, the hearing of two members of Academics for Peace was held in Istanbul’s 32nd High Criminal Court. One of the academics had requested the removal of a judge from the panel on the basis of bias, but their request was refused. Both were charged with disseminating “terrorist propaganda” for having signed a peace petition drafted by Academics for Peace and sentenced to one year and three months in prison. One academic’s sentence was suspended; the other did not request that their sentence be suspended.

Criminal proceedings against Academics for Peace are ongoing and to date, the first hearings of 241 petition signatories have concluded and 15 academics have been sentenced to one year and three months in prison. All 15 sentences were suspended except for two. A schedule of upcoming hearings can be viewed on Academics for Peace’s website.

23 May 2018
Ongoing hearings of members of Academics for Peace

On 22 May 2018, the first hearing of three academics was held in Istanbul 29th High Criminal Court and the first hearing of two others was held in Istanbul 27th High Criminal Court. All five are among the academics facing trial on charges of disseminating ‘terrorist propaganda’ for having signed a peace petition drafted by Academics for Peace.

These hearings are just three of many ongoing hearings against Academics for Peace. To date, first hearings of 230 petition signatories have been concluded and 13 of have been sentenced to one year and three months in prison. All terms were suspended with the exception of that of Zübeyde Füsun Üstel. The next hearings are scheduled for the upcoming months and the first hearings of many others will be held in the near future.

Front Line Defenders condemns the continuing judicial harassment against the members of Academics for Peace in Turkey, which it believes is related to their peaceful work in defence of the rights of others.

6 April 2018
Prison sentences handed down to four members of Academics for Peace

On 4 April 2018, the third hearing of three academics concluded in Istanbul’s 32nd High Criminal Court. On 5 April 2018, the second hearing of two academics concluded in Istanbul’s 36th Criminal Court. All five are among the 1,128 academics facing trial on charges of disseminating ‘terrorist propaganda’ for having signed a peace petition drafted by Academics for Peace.

Academics for Peace is an organisation founded in November 2012 which unites more than 2,000 individuals supporting peace in south eastern Turkey.

On 23 February 2018, the prosecutor called for the academics to be charged with producing and disseminating “terrorist propaganda” under Turkish Anti Terror Law 7/2.

On 4 April, during their third hearing, the court sentenced Veli Polat and Zübeyde Füsun Üstel to one year and three months in prison. Veli Polat’s sentence was suspended, but Zübeyde Füsun Üstel’s was not, as the court believed she was insufficiently remorseful for her crime. The hearing of a third academic, Yasemin Gülsüm Acar, was ultimately rescheduled for 12 April 2018. 

On 5 April, Melda Tunçay and Tevfik Hakan Ongan were each given suspended sentences of 1 year and 3 months.

On 23 September 2017, signatories of the petition were charged with producing and disseminating “terrorist propaganda” under Turkish Anti Terror Law 7/2  in an indictment published by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. To date, seven of the 1,128 academics have been sentenced. While these seven were sentenced to one year and three months in prison, all terms were suspended with the exception of that of Zübeyde Füsun Üstel.

Front Line Defenders condemns the continuing judicial harassment against the members of Academics for Peace in Turkey, which it believes is related to their peaceful work in defence of the rights of others.

23 February 2018
One year and three months suspended sentence imposed on three members of Academics for Peace

On 23 February 2018, the second hearing of ten human rights defenders and academics, who are among the 1,128 academics facing trial for having signed the peace petition released by Academics for Peace, concluded in Istanbul’s 32nd High Criminal Court.

Academics for Peace is an organisation founded in November 2012 which unites more than 2,000 individuals supporting peace in the south-east of Turkey.

On 23 February 2018, the prosecutor called for Academics for Peace to be punished under Turkish Anti Terror Law 7/2. Three human rights defenders and members of Academics for Peace, Ayda Rona Aylin Altınay Cingöz, Ezgi Pınar and İzzettin Önder were sentenced to one year and three months in prison each. Their sentences were suspended for five years subject to the good conduct of the defenders.

On 23 September 2017, the petition signatories were charged with producing and disseminating “terrorist propaganda” under Turkish Anti Terror Law 7/2. The lawsuits are being filed separately and the hearings began on 5 December 2017. So far, the first hearings have concluded for 128 members of Academics for Peace and the second hearings have concluded for 29 members.

During the hearings, requests for additional time to prepare the defence were granted. The next hearings are due to take place on 4 April 2018, 6 April 2018 and 9 April 2018.

6 December 2017
First hearing for petition signatories concludes

On 5 December 2017, the first hearings of 10 academics, who are among the 1,128 academics facing trial for having signed the peace petition released by Academics for Peace, concluded in the Istanbul 35th High Criminal Court.

The petition signatories are being charged under Turkish Anti Terror Law 7/2. During the hearing, the Court rejected defence requests for acquittal and other requests for the charges to be reduced to infractions under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (insulting Turkey, the Turkish nation, or Turkish government institutions). Requests for additional time to prepare defences were granted and their next hearing is due to take place on 12 April 2018.

Academics for Peace is an organisation founded in November 2012 which unites more than 2,000 individuals supporting peace in the south-east of Turkey. On 23 September 2017, members of Academics for Peace who signed a petition called “we will not be a party to this crime” were accused of producing and disseminating “terrorist propaganda” in an indictment published by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. If found guilty of these charges, the signatories will face up to seven and a half years in prison.

The Courts intend to hear the cases of 148 petition signatories by 17 May 2018.

 

20 November 2017
Petition signatories accused of “terrorist propaganda”

On 23 September 2017, members of Academics for Peace who signed a petition called “we will not be a party to this crime” were accused of producing and disseminating “terrorist propaganda” in an indictment published by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office. The indictment has been accepted by Istanbul High Criminal Courts. If found guilty of these charges, the signatories will face up to seven and a half years in prison. The number of signatories accused is not yet known as the lawsuits are being filed separately.

Academics for Peace is an organisation founded in November 2012 which unites more than 2,000 individuals supporting peace in the south-east of Turkey.

According to the indictment, "[i]t has been revealed that the main purpose of the petition is to build public support to stop military operations which are carried out in order to secure the peace and safety of citizens and in order to clear areas where the PKK/KCK terrorist organisation has established elements of governmental control. On these grounds, the Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has launched an investigation [against the petition signatories] for ‘propagandising for a terrorist organisation’". The prosecutor has also argued in the bill of indictment that those who prepared the declaration had deliberately changed some expressions between the Turkish and English versions in order to garner more support from English speakers.

The petition in question condemns violent actions of the Government in south-eastern Turkey, which have resulted in numerous human rights violations. It was published on 11 January 2016 by Academics for Peace and signed by more than 2,000 academics both inside and outside of Turkey. Signatories called for the lifting of curfews imposed in the area, access for international observers to the region, and the opening of negotiations to “create a road map that would lead to a lasting peace which includes the demands of the Kurdish political movement”.

The first hearing will be on 5 December 2017.

1 September 2016
Dismissal of Academics for Peace members from their posts

On 1 September 2016, the Turkish government passed three new state of emergency decrees, which paved the way for the dismissals of more than 40,000 public empoyees, who were accused to have links with Fethullah Gulen. The Turkish government has blamed Fethullah's followers for the attempted coup on 15 July 2016.

Among the 2346 academics who were sacked there were also 44 members of the movement Academics for Peace, including professor Dr. Ümit Biçer, Member of the Board of Directors of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, and faculty member of the Forensic Medicine Department at the Kocaeli University.

Download the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey Urgent Appeal (PDF)

The human rights situation in Turkey is rapidly deteriorating, with the government embarking on a massive crackdown on human rights defenders and on civil society following the failed attempt of the Turkish military to overthrow the government of President Erdoğan. The repression against the voices critical of the government and its policies has further intensified with the introduction of a state of emergency on 20 July 2016. In particular, Front Line Defenders is concerned about the severe restrictions on freedom of expression, speech and assembly introduced in the country, as these limitations can have a significant negative impact on the legitimate and peaceful work of human rights defenders in the country.

5 May 2016
Imprisoned academics released on bail

On 22 April 2016 a penal court in Instanbul released on bail four Turkish academics and human rights defenders who had been detained for more than one month.

Ms Esra Mungan Gürsoy, Ms Meral Camcı, Mr Kıvanç Ersoy and Mr Muzaffer Kaya were arrested on 15 March 2016 on charges of terrorism propaganda. They were detained after signing the “Petition for Peace,” a public declaration calling on the Turskish government to stop violent security operations in the country’s mainly Kurdish south-east region.

The prosecutor said the initial investigation was suspended, but he launched a second one on charges of “insulting the Turkish identity”. The next hearing is scheduled for 26 September 2016. The court did not drop the charges against the human rights defenders, who are facing up to seven and a half years in jail if convicted.

Front Line Defenders welcomes the release of Ms Esra Mungan Gürsoy, Ms Meral Camcı, Mr Kıvanç Ersoy and Mr Muzaffer Kaya, but expresses concern for the ongoing judicial persecution and it calls on the Turkish authorities to drop all charges against them.

15 April 2016
Call on foreign Ambassadors in Turkey to observe the first hearing in the case against Academics for Peace

On 11 April 2016, Academics for Peace published the following letter, addressed to the foreign Ambassadors in Turkey, inviting them to observe the first hearing scheduled for 22 April.

We, the Academics for Peace (Barış İçin Akademisyenler, BAK) are writing to you to draw your attention to the first court hearing in the case against four of our colleagues, Ass. Prof. Esra Mungan Gürsoy, Ass. Prof. Meral Camcı, Assoc. Prof. Kıvanç Ersoy and Ass. Prof. Muzaffer Kaya, which will take place on 22nd April, 2016 in İstanbul, Çağlayan Courthouse, at 2:00 PM.

Since 15th March and 31st March, 2016 respectively, the four have been held as pre-trial detainees, accused of "making propaganda of the terrorist organization PKK/KCK" under Article 7/2 of Anti-Terror Law. The indictment refers to a press statement which the four read out on 10th March 2016 and the original petition “We will not be a party to this crime”, which was signed by 1128 individuals and made public on 11th January, 2016.

Following the petition, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has repeatedly targeted the signees as "a gang who name themselves as academicians", "so-called intellectuals", arguing that “the people who talk like the members of terrorist organizations are just the same as the members of terrorist organizations”. Most recently, referring to this trial, he publically declared that our colleagues should “remain in prison throughout the trial” as they were “guilty”.

Over the past months, his words have triggered a lynch campaign in local and national-wide mainstream and social media presenting a serious general and personal threat to the physical integrity of the signees, disciplinary instigations in a majority of the universities, dismissals and forced resignations, as well as detentions, house searches, and legal prosecutions against the whole group of signees. As an initial reaction , nearly one thousand more academics joined in signing the declaration, hence, now, the total number of signatories amounts to 2212.

The press statement read out by Esra Mungan Gürsoy, Muzaffer Kaya, Kıvanç Ersoy and Meral Camci on 10th March, 2016 was issued by BAK Istanbul to inform the public about precisely this unjust treatment against the signees of the original petition, especially about the administrative investigations and prosecutions. As a result, these four have been detained and an indictment has been prepared for them, while the investigations against the rest of the academics are progressively continuing. The indictment has been approved by the Istanbul 13th Heavy Penalty Court and the first hearing of the trial will be held on 22nd April, 2016. The accusation requires an imprisonment from 1,5 years to 7,5 years.

This trial is a clear breach of freedom of expression, and should not just be regarded as a case against the academics, but rather a trial against freedom of expression in the whole of Turkey. It should be noted that Turkey is already placed at the top with 300 applications to the ECtHR regarding violation of freedom of expression.

Hence, we would like to kindly invite you to be present at the court on the 22nd April, 2016, to observe the first hearing. We believe that your presence will not only give a strong sign of support for peace, democracy, and freedom of expression in Turkey, but will also have a positive effect on the fairness of the trial of our colleagues.

If you have any further question, please do not hesitate to contact us at any point in time.

Thank you in advance for your kind interest,

Academics for Peace

25 March 2016
Worsening conditions of detention of imprisoned academics for peace

On 15 March 2016, academics Ms Esra Mungan of Boğaziçi University, Mr Kıvanç Ersoy of Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, and Mr Muzaffer Kaya, formerly of Nişantaşı University, were arrested on charges of terrorism and taken into detention pending an investigation in connection with their signing of the Petition for Peace, a petition calling for an end to violent actions by the Government in Turkey's south-east region. Esra Mungan has since been moved to a smaller cell in solitary confinement, while Kıvanç Ersoy and Muzaffer Kaya have been transfered from their original place of detention, subjected to ill-treatment, and also placed in solitary confinement.

Download the Urgent Appeal (PDF)

Esra Mungan, Kıvanç Ersoy and Muzaffer Kaya are members of Academics for Peace, a group that unites more than 2,000 individuals supporting peace in the south-east of Turkey. They are among the 1128 signatories of a petition released in January 2016 calling for an end to violence in the region.

On 24 March 2016, Esra Mungan was transferred from her original cell in Bakirkoy prison to a smaller cell with very poor hygienic conditions. She has been held in solitary confinement since her arrest. On the same date, Muzaffer Kaya and Kıvanç Ersoy were transferred to the Silivri Prison, where according to the information received, they were searched while naked, and then forced to remain naked for 20 minutes before being placed in solitary confinement. Books were also seized from them. Colleagues of the academics have began a vigil in front of both Bakirkoy and Silivri Prison.

On 14 March 2016, the three academics were brought before a prosecutor, who arrested them pending investigation for “propagating for a terrorist organization”. The investigation was opened after a speech given by the three academics at a press conference at the Education and Science Workers’ Union’s in Istanbul on 10 March 2016. During the press conference, the three stated their intention to continue their work, despite the repression and “legal and verbal war” which they claim has been initiated against academics following the release of January petition calling for peace in the Kurdish region.

On 21 January 2016, 27 academics were detained and accused of spreading terrorist propaganda, before later being released. On 14 January 2016, the Turkish Prosecutors office launched an investigation over possible charges against academics for insulting the state and engaging in terrorist propaganda. Several signatories to the Petition for Peace have been dismissed from their work, suspended, put under administrative and criminal investigation, and subjected to smear campaigns and physicals threats. On 12 January 2016, at a conference of Ambassadors, President Erdogan targeted signatories to the petition, stating: “Some people who call themselves academics defame Turkey for protecting its land and threaten the people in the region”. Turkey's Council of High Education (YÖK), a regulatory body of Turkish Universities, released a statement concerning the petition, which stated: “This declaration which supports terrorism cannot be associated with academic freedom. (...) We will do the necessary about this declaration within the scope of law.”

On 11 January 2016, the Petition for Peace was released, condemning the violent actions by the Government in the south-eastern part of Turkey, which have resulted in numerous human rights violations. Signatories called for the lifting of the curfew imposed in the area, access for international observers to the region, and the opening of negotiations to “create a road map that would lead to a lasting peace which includes the demands of the Kurdish political movement”.

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Turkey to:

1. Immediately and unconditionally release Esra Mungan, Kıvanç Ersoy and Muzaffer Kaya, and close the investigation against them, as Front Line Defenders believes that they are being held solely as a result of their legitimate and peaceful work in the defence of human rights;

2. Immediately cease all persecution, harassment and intimidatory acts targeting signatories to the Petition for Peace and academics in Turkey;

3. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Turkey are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.