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[UPDATE] Trial of peace declaration academics adjourned until April

An Istanbul court on Tuesday adjourned until April 12 the trial of 10 academics who signed a peace declaration in early 2016 criticizing the Turkish government for its violation of human rights and civilian casualties among the predominantly Kurdish population of eastern Turkey, Reuters reported.

The academics, the first of 148 to be tried, face terrorism charges and could receive jail terms of seven-and-a-half years.

The court rejected an assertion made by the defendants’ lawyers that the declaration was a criticism of the government, not an insult. Criticizing the government is not a crime under the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), while insulting it is a punishable offense.

“It is obvious, from a legal standpoint, that there is no crime here, but, politically, (the authorities) want to turn it into something else,” a defense lawyer for three academics from Istanbul University told Reuters.

The declaration, signed by 1,128 academics in 2016, called on the government to halt operations by security forces in southeastern Turkey, restore peace to the nation and return to the negotiating table to restart shelved talks with the Kurds to find a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue.

Signatories of the peace declaration titled “We Will Not Be a Party to This [Turkish state’s] Crime” are facing accusations of disseminating terrorist propaganda.

The academics for peace demanded that the Turkish government put an end to blockades and curfews in Kurdish towns, avoid targeting civilians in the conflict with the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), reinstate necessary conditions for a cease-fire with the militants and ultimately secure an atmosphere for a sustainable peace between the Kurds and the Turkish state.

It was signed by more than 2,000 intellectuals from both inside and outside Turkey, including US philosopher Noam Chomsky.

The peace declaration frustrated President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, leading to retribution against the academics. Some of the insults Erdoğan used against them included “so-called intellectuals,” “a flock called intellectuals,” “traitors” and “rough copies of intellectuals.”

Hundreds of academics who signed the declaration were detained when police raided their homes and offices across Turkey after the declaration was announced on Jan. 11, 2016, while hundreds of them were removed from their jobs.

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