Amnesty says sentences given to academics show ‘malicious attitude’ to rights defenders

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Prominent rights group Amnesty International has released a statement in solidarity with Professor Şebnem Korur Fincancı and Professor Gençay Gürsoy, who were recently handed down jail sentences for signing a peace declaration.

Fincancı was this month sentenced to two years, six months in prison and Gürsoy was given two years, three months as they were among the signatories of a petition titled “We will not be party to this crime” signed in 2016 by a large number of Turkish academics who called themselves “Academics for Peace” during a period of heavy clashes in Turkey’s Southeast between security forces and militants affiliated with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The statement released by Amnesty on Thursday said, “Both cases have openly revealed the malicious attitude to rights defenders” in Turkey.

The peace petition demanded a peaceful solution to the Kurdish problem and criticized Turkish security forces for their heavy-handed actions that saw citizens confined under long-lasting curfews and areas in predominantly Kurdish cities under bombardment.

Andrew Gardner, Amnesty’s Turkey strategy and research manager, said: “It cannot be a crime to share rights violations with the media or document human rights violations. It is unacceptable that Fincancı has been given such a sentence though there is no crime that she committed.

“On the contrary, as required by international obligations, the authorities in Turkey are responsible for protecting human rights defenders like Korur Fincancı and to provide them with the environment where they can practice their professions in the best way possible.

“The verdict given in the case of Fincancı is a very familiar example of the increasing pressure on human rights defenders and civil society in Turkey.

“The Anti-Terror Law is being arbitrarily used to silence rights defenders and journalists who express dissenting opinions.

“Especially the constraints on the works of rights defenders have been considerably spreading to the society.

“This deterioration in human rights should come to an end now, the fabricated charges brought against rights defenders should be immediately dropped and rights defenders should be set free.”

Reminding that former Chair of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB) Gürsoy was also sentenced to two years, three months in prison on Dec.11, Gardner also stated:

“In the hearing of Gençay Gürsoy as well, the interviews that he gave to the press and his social media posts were added to the case file as evidence though they did not constitute a crime.

“The sentence of Gürsoy was aggravated because he was the Chair of the TTB when he signed the declaration and the TTB accepted the declaration.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had accused the signatories of the petition disseminating propaganda for the PKK. Many of the academics who signed the petition have been removed from their posts at universities, and some of them are standing trial on charges of terrorism.

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