Turkey’s top court rules convicted peace academics’ rights violated

The Constitutional Court (AYM) of Turkey has ruled that rights of the academics who were convicted and sentenced for signing a joint peace declaration in 2016 were violated, Gazete Duvar news website reported on Friday.

Individual applications of academics Fusun Ustel, Ibrahim Garip, Yasemin Gulsum Acar, Ayda Rona Aylin Altinay Cingoz, Melda Tuncay, Izzeddin Onder, Canan Ozbey, Nazli Okten Gulsoy, Zubeyde Gaye Cankaya Eksen, and Ece Oztan were on Friday examined by the AYM.

The AYM said that the academics’ right to freedom of expression was violated after they were convicted of “making propaganda of a terrorist organization” by local courts.

The decision was made by AYM President Zuhtu Arslan’s tie-breaking vote.

According to the verdict, which will be sent to lower courts for re-trials and the removal of the violation, the Turkish government will pay each of the applicants 9,000 lira ($1,595.18) in compensation.

Rulings of the Constitutional Court are binding for all subordinate courts across Turkey’s legal landscape and judicial system.

Lawyer Benan Molu, who took the academics’ cases to the AYM, stated that no one should be punished for signing a declaration that calls for peace.

“These academics should now be re-tried and acquitted of the charges against them,” Molu said, adding that the AYM verdict should also set a precedent for the local courts where trials of other 784 signatories are ongoing.

The lawyer further indicated that the ruling should affect those academics whose passports were canceled and those who were dismissed from their jobs due to signing the declaration.

The declaration entitled “We will not be a party to this crime!” was initially signed on January 11, 2016, by a total of 1,128 staff from 90 Turkish universities, which are called the Academics for Peace.

It was in reaction to months of fighting between the Turkish government’s security forces and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) after a ceasefire in Turkey’s southeast had broken down in 2015.

The PKK, which is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, launched a separatist insurgency in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast in 1984.

The declaration drew criticism from the AKP government and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan labeled the academics who signed it as terrorists.

Receiving international support, later on, the petition was signed by at least 1,800 more academics around the world, including Noam Chomsky, Judith Butler, Etienne Balibar, and David Harvey.

Petition calls on top court to drop charges against Academics for Peace

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