Turkish ‘academic for peace’ ordered by court to visit family of soldier killed by PKK

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Professor Güvenli in the courthouse.

An İstanbul high criminal court sentenced Gülsün Güvenli, an academic who signed a declaration that demanded a halt to Turkey’s military operations in Kurdish-dominated cities, to visit the family of a Turkish soldier who died in clashes against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the Diken newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Güvenli stood trial as one of the signatories of a 2016 petition titled “We will not be party to this crime,” signed by over 2,000 Turkish academics who called themselves “Academics for Peace.”

The petition called for an end to the then-ongoing heavy fighting in Turkey’s Southeast between the Turkish armed forces and PKK militants, demanding a peaceful solution to Turkey’s Kurdish problem.

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

The court had initially sentenced Güvenli to one year, six months in prison for allegedly spreading terrorist propaganda.

Her sentence was later reduced to one year, three months for good behavior and suspended for five years during which time she will be on probation.

The court also imposed an uncommon penalty on Güvenli by sentencing her to pay a condolence visit to the family of Ahmet Çamur, a Turkish soldier who was killed in a PKK assault in August 2015 in the southeastern province of Hakkari.

Upon hearing the verdict, Güvenli reportedly said: “I would be honored to do it. I am against all killing, which is why I signed the petition,” although her comment was not recorded by the court clerk.

Güvenli’s lawyer claimed that the decision was above all unfair to the family of the deceased as it would be evocative of their grief from four years ago.

“Besides, there is an extreme lack of good sense in considering a condolence visit as a punishment. Not to mention the possibility of provoking hatred. We will exercise our right to object,” the lawyer added.

Many academics were removed from their jobs, stood trial and received prison sentences for signing the petition.

They were targeted by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who accused them of disseminating propaganda on behalf of the PKK.

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