Turkish academic begins serving prison sentence for signing 2016 peace petition

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Professor Füsun Üstel

Professor Füsun Üstel, the first academic who signed a peace petition in 2016 to be incarcerated, turned herself in to prison authorities today to begin serving her sentence, the Stockholm Center for Freedom reported.

Academics had gathered on Tuesday to bid farewell to Professor Üstel, whose 15-month prison sentence was upheld by the İstanbul Regional Court of Justice.

Speaking at the event, Üstel said: “We are not at the point where the word ends, but where it begins. As citizens, as individuals, we will voice our demand to live in peace.”

Üstel will serve 11 months at the Eskişehir Women’s Prison in line with a law that stipulates individuals convicted of terrorist activities must serve three-quarters of their sentence in a penal facility and the remainder on probation.

The İstanbul Regional Appeals Court on March 3 upheld the prison sentence of Üstel, who signed a peace petition along with 1,128 other academics in 2016 calling on the Turkish government to halt military operations in the predominantly Kurdish southeastern region of the country.

The İstanbul 32nd High Criminal Court had previously sentenced Professor Üstel to one year, three months for disseminating terrorist propaganda. Üstel refused the offer of a suspended sentence.

Turkish officials opened investigations into the signatories of the peace petition, and in 137 of the cases the academics were handed down suspended prison sentences.

Turkey started military operations in the Southeast targeting Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorists, eventually causing the death of dozens of civilians and the destruction of some residential parts of the cities.

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