Court acquits 3 academics who signed 2016 peace declaration

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An inside view from the Turkey's biggest court house, Çağlayan. PHOTO: Hürriyet

A high criminal court in the southeastern Turkish province of Diyarbakır has acquitted three academics from Dicle University who signed a 2016 peace petition calling for an end to state violence against Turkey’s Kurds.

The petition was published in January 2016 in reaction to months of fighting between the Turkish government and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) after a two-and-a-half-year ceasefire broke down in 2015. The government put large parts of the Southeast under curfew, and some largely Kurdish areas were bombarded by heavy weapons.

The last hearing in the trial of professors Murat Kızıl, Murat Biricik and Fikret Uyar was held at the Diyarbakır 11th High Criminal Court on Monday.

The prosecutor in the trial asked for the acquittal of the defendants based on a recent ruling from Turkey’s Constitutional Court, saying that the legal elements of the crime of “disseminating the propaganda of a terrorist organization” were not present. The academics were being accused of spreading terrorist propaganda. The Diyarbakır court ruled to acquit them in line with the prosecutor’s opinion.

In a landmark ruling on July 26, the Constitutional Court, which reviewed the individual applications of 10 academics who signed the peace declaration, ruled that the sentencing of the academics amounted to a violation of rights.

Calling themselves “Academics for Peace,” the 1,128 initial signatories of the letter published in January 2016 included Turkish scholars and prominent overseas academics such as American linguist Noam Chomsky.

They said Turkey was condemning residents of towns in the Southeast to hunger through the use of curfews and also called for a solution to the conflict that included talks with the Kurdish political movement.

The government says its measures were necessary to root out Kurdish militants who had dug trenches and laid explosives. The United Nations has estimated the security operations left 2,000 people dead and up to half a million displaced.

The PKK, considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, has waged an insurgency against the state since the 1980s that has killed more than 40,000 people.

A total of 785 signatories were put on trial in separate cases, and more than 200 have been sentenced so far, according to Academics for Peace.

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