Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has said that he is opposed to the arrest of academicians as reaction mounts among the public against the arrest of three academicians for singing a declaration criticizing curfews declared in the predominantly Kurdish southeastern districts.
Speaking to reporters on his trip to Jordan, Davutoğlu said, “If there are no legal obligations, I am against people being jailed pending trial, on principle. If there is acquittal at the end of the ordeal, then that person’s restriction of freedom is not something that can be paid back.”
“They [the state] can give a person the highest penalty, but shouldn’t take away the freedom to talk and walk” he said. “As an academician who suffered oppression during the 28 Feb [coup era] I say, ‘I cannot accept any restriction on type of thought. That academician from Boğaziçi University [Esra Mungan] was someone who also opposed the headscarf ban in the past. I have no negative views about her, on the contrary I have heard of her libertarian stance.”
Esra Mungan, Muzaffer Kaya and Kıvanç Ersoy were recently detained for signing a declaration titled “We will not be a party to this crime,” criticizing curfews declared in the predominantly Kurdish southeastern districts.
Over 1,100 academics from 90 universities signed the declaration on January 11, wherein they called on the government to halt the on-going operations in south-eastern Turkey, restore national peace and return to the negotiating table to restart the shelved talks with Kurds to find a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue.
Davutoğlu continued, “If an academician can still read out such a declaration without criticizing the PKK then I will discuss this on a different platform. The legal issue is a different one.”
The operations against the terrorist Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) began after the frail ceasefire set up in 2013, as part of the settlement process was ended on July 22, 2015 when the PKK assassinated two police officers. The PKK said it acted in retaliation for the state failing to prevent a suspected Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militant detonating a suicide bomb in Şanlıurfa’s Suruç district and killing 34, injuring over 100.
The declaration frustrated President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government, leading to retribution against some of the academics. Some of the insults Erdoğan used against the academics include: “so-called intellectuals,” “a flock called intellectuals”, “traitors” and “rough copies of intellectuals.”