German NGO seeks help from foreign minister for persecuted academics in Turkey

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A protester holds a placard reading "Academy will not bow to government", on December 5, 2017 in front of Istanbul's courthouse, during a demonstration in support of a group of academics charged with terror offences for signing a petition almost two years ago calling for peace in the Kurdish-dominated southeast. - Over 1,120 Turkish and also foreign academics initially signed the petition which denounced the actions of Turkey's military in the southeast where deadly clashes had erupted with outlawed Kurdish militants in 2015. The first 10 academics charged -- from Istanbul University and Galatasaray University -- went on trial on December 5, 2017. (Photo by OZAN KOSE / AFP)

A group of academics in Germany on Monday asked German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas to support a number of academics in Turkey who are being persecuted for signing a declaration asking for the end of curfews in southeastern Turkey in January 2016.

Deusche Welle reported on Monday that the Germany Democratic Union of Scientists (BdWi) asked in a letter to the foreign minister that he try to get the pressure eased on the academics in Turkey who are subject to persecution over alleged terrorist propaganda.

The NGO stated that the academics are being targeted for seeking a peaceful resolution to the Kurdish problem in Turkey and asked Maas to exert efforts to put a halt to their persecution.

In January 2016, 1,128 Turkish academics calling themselves “Academics for Peace” signed a petition titled “We will not be party to this crime” during a period of heavy fighting in Turkey’s Southeast between Turkish armed forces and militants affiliated with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The number of signatories later exceeded 2,000.

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

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has accused the signatories of disseminating propaganda for the PKK. Many of the academics who signed the petition have been removed from their posts at the universities. Three signatories were handed down suspended jail sentences in February.

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