Teacher who pleaded with gov’t to spare children’s lives vindicated by top Turkish court

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Turkey’s Constitutional Court ruled on Thursday that the imprisonment of Kurdish teacher Ayşe Çelik, who during a TV program in 2016 called for an end to clashes between Kurdish militants and Turkish security forces in Diyarbakır and asked authorities to not let children die, was a violation of freedom of expression.

She is expected to be released after the top court’s ruling.

Çelik, an unemployed teacher from the southeastern Turkish province of Diyarbakır, was sentenced to 15 months in April 2017, and an appeals court upheld the sentence in October. She was jailed in April 2018 with her six-month-old daughter, Deran.

In May 2018 she was released from prison and confined to house arrest by the court, following an appeal by her lawyer, Mahsuni Karaman.

Karaman announced from his Twitter account on April 18 that Çelik was jailed again to serve her sentence, which was delayed three times because she was pregnant and had a newborn baby.

An investigation was launched into Çelik after she called in to the popular “Beyaz Show“ on Jan. 8, 2016 and urged authorities to take action to prevent the killing of children in clashes between Turkish security forces and the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

During the TV program, Çelik said: “Are you aware of what’s going on in the country’s east? What’s happening here is misrepresented on television. Don’t stay silent! Please show more sensitivity as human beings! See us, hear us and give us a hand! I’d like to address the teachers who have abandoned their students. How are they going to return there? How are they going to look those innocent children in the eye? What a pity! Don’t let people die. Don’t let children die. Don’t let mothers cry.”

The host of the program, Beyazıt Öztürk, had the audience applaud her by saying: “We are trying our best to make it heard. Your words have been a lesson for us. We will continue to do more. Hopefully your wishes for peace will be realized as soon as possible.”

Following the show, the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation into Çelik for “praising terrorism and a terrorist organization,” and the Bakırköy Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office initiated a separate investigation into Öztürk and Çelik on similar charges.

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