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Turkey jails academic for signing peace declaration

A professor who signed a joint declaration for peace in Turkey in 2016 has been sentenced to a jail term after being convicted of the charge of promoting a terrorist organization.

T24 news portal reported on Wednesday that Professor Zubeyde Fusun Ustel was sent to the Eskisehir Women’s Closed Prison and has become the first academic who was jailed due to the declaration.

This follows after the 3rd Panel Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice upheld a one year and three-month prison sentence for her on February 25.

The incident took place while 32 more academics, who were also slapped with prison sentences also due to signing the declaration, were waiting for an appeal court’s ruling on their cases.

The petition which showed support for Kurdish prisoners’ demands for peace voiced through a hunger strike, denounces military operations against Kurds and calls for peace in Turkey’s southeast.

The issue was brought before the Turkish parliament by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Sezgin Tanrikulu.

He emphasized that it is a shame for Turkey, especially for the members of the Turkish judiciary, to sentence academics to prison due to calling for peace.

“Academics do not belong to prisons. She [Ustel] exercised her right to freedom of thought and she is going to be in jail for it today,” Tanrikulu said during a press conference at the Parliament on Wednesday.

The CHP MP also shared some statistics about the Academics for Peace, 1,128 staff from 90 Turkish universities who are the first group to sign the petition.

“So far, Turkish courts gave decisions for 186 academics. Thirty-three of those academics received prison sentences. One of them was Fusun Ustel. Thirty-three others wait for their cases to be settled,” CHP deputy said.

Stating that a total of 600 academics are currently facing trial for signing the petition, Tanrikulu stressed: “All of these trials are against fair and just judicial principles.”

At least 1,000 more academics, later on, signed the declaration entitled, We won’t be a party to this crime, in reference to the heavy clashes between security forces and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the PKK has been fighting for self-rule in the predominantly Kurdish region southeast of Turkey since the 1980s.

The Human Rights Association (IHD), an Ankara-based non-governmental organization for advancing human rights in Turkey, has denounced the prison sentence given to Ustel.

The IHD called on Turkey’s Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), in a statement released on Tuesday, to give priority to the appeals made by the academics and to give verdicts without delay.

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