Four academics who have been charged and jailed on terrorism charges for signing a peace declaration appeared before a court on Friday, with the court ruling to release them pending trial.
Muzaffer Kaya, Esra Mungan, Kıvanç Ersoy and Meral Camcı, who are currently in jail and face lengthy prison terms if convicted, delivered their defense statements during their first hearing at the İstanbul 13rd High Criminal Court.
“Today, freedom of thought and freedom of speech are on trial,” Kaya said in his defense statement. Stating that the indictment in the case is just a “bad summary” of their case, he said he would not have given more than two over ten for the document if he was to grade it as a lecturer.
“Our declaration contained warnings to the government as well as some demands from it.
“We wanted an end to grave human rights violations. You can get angry with us over the declaration but our document does not contain any kind of propaganda for a terrorist organization,” he said.
Mungan also criticized the document. “How on earth a person can be arrested with this indictment,” she asked.
After Mıngan, Ersoy delievered his defense statement, saying they were arrested since they defended peace.
“We were arrested since we defended peace and we were engaged in two peaceful methods: signing a declaration and making a press statement.
The prosecutor, who initially requested the court to keep the academics under arrest, later asked the court to release them pending trial.
The four academics are amongst over 2,000 signatories to a petition criticizing ongoing curfews and security operations in southeastern Turkey and calling on the “government to prepare the conditions for negotiations and create a road map that would lead to a lasting peace which includes the demands of the Kurdish political movement.”
Prosecutors opened a criminal investigation into the signatories accusing them of “making propaganda for a terrorist organization.”
Many academics have been fired from their posts at some universities while many of them are facing legal proceedings for the signing the declaration.
A settlement process launched by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government in late 2012 to end Turkey’s long-standing Kurdish problem collapsed following a two-year-cease-fire last July, triggering the worst violence in Turkey’s southeast since 1990s. Hundreds of civilians, security forces’ members as well as PKK terrorists have been killed in the region in the renewed conflict over the past months.