Elderly professor given jail sentence for signing peace declaration

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Professor Gençay Gürsoy, 79, was given a 27-month jail sentence by a high criminal court in İstanbul on Tuesdayon 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.

Gürsoy, a professor of neurology, was one of 1,128 academics who signed the declaration.

The sentence handed down to Gürsoy is the longest sentence so far given in the trial of academics who signed the peace declaration.

The judge hearing Gürsoy’s trial at the İstanbul 37th High Criminal Court did not make any reduction in the sentence given to the professor on the grounds that Gürsoy did not voice any regrets for signing the declaration, but to the contrary made statements in the media supporting it.

An appeals court will review the sentence given to the professor.

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.

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