An İstanbul high criminal court on Tuesday handed down suspended sentences of one year, three months to three Turkish academics on terrorism charges resulting from signing a 2016 peace petition calling for an end to state violence against Turkey’s Kurds.
The petition was published in January 2016 in reaction to months of fighting between the Turkish government and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) after a two-and-a-half-year ceasefire broke down in 2015. The government put large parts of the Southeast under curfew, and some largely Kurdish areas were bombarded by heavy weapons.
The trials of 17 academics who signed the peace declaration were held at five different İstanbul high criminal courts on Tuesday.
Dr. Gaye Yılmaz’s trial was held at the İstanbul 28th High Criminal Court where she was given a suspended prison sentence of one year, three months. Yılmaz did not attend the trial nor she was represented by a lawyer.
Associate Professor Bülent Küçük and Professor N.N. were also given one year, three months suspended prison sentences in separate trials.
In the meantime, Hanifi Barış, who has been in pre-trial detention since July 4 for signing the peace declaration, was released during the first hearing of his trial on Tuesday.
Journalists were ordered to leave the courtrooms during the academics’ trials.
Calling themselves “Academics for Peace,” the 1,128 signatories included Turkish scholars and prominent foreign academics such as American linguist Noam Chomsky. They said the Turkish government was condemning residents of towns in the Southeast to hunger through the use of curfews and also called for a solution to the conflict, including talks with the Kurdish political movement.
The government said its measures were necessary to root out Kurdish militants who had dug trenches and laid explosives. The United Nations has estimated the security operations left 2,000 people dead and up to half a million displaced.