Academic arrested due to ‘Kurdistan’ tweet released from jail

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A research assistant at a university in eastern Turkey who was arrested on Nov. 6 after he was suspended by the university over a “Kurdistan” post on social media, has been released from pre-trial detention, the Mezopotamya news agency reported.

Hifzullah Kutum, a research assistant at Fırat University in Elazığ, was taken into police custody on Nov. 5 and arrested the following day on charges of disseminating terrorist propaganda in connection with a message he posted on Twitter on Sept. 14.

Kutum had tweeted, “Şoreşa Îlonê hemû Kurdan pîroz be, Bijî Kurdistan” (Happy September Revolution for all Kurds. Long live Kurdistan), against the backdrop of a photograph of Massoud Barzani, the former president of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq.

Kutum was released from pre-trial detention on Wednesday after his lawyer objected to his arrest.

In the investigation conducted by the university, Kutum was asked about his intention in posting the tweet and if it posed any threat to the “territorial integrity of the Republic of Turkey.”

Kutum said the word “Kurdistan” and the flag in the tweet were used in official talks between Turkey and the KRG.

The Turkish bureaucracy and the public remain overly sensitive to the word “Kurdistan” and the tri-colored Kurdistan flag, which in some cases have been associated with “treason and terrorism” linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and the EU.

There have been cases of people being arrested for wearing Kurdistan T-shirts, activists detained for waving Kurdistan flags and students interrogated for tweeting pictures of the flag.

The websites of Turkey’s Presidency and Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as the state-run Anadolu news agency refer to the KRG in northern Iraq as Kurdistan.

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