Turkish court releases academic who signed declaration of peace

Mathematician Tuna Altinel, who was arrested for signing a joint peace declaration, has been released from prison by a Balikesir court, Gazete Duvar news portal reported on Tuesday.

Associate Professor Altinel from the Claude Bernard Lyon 1 in France appeared on Tuesday before the judge for the first time since his arrest on charges of “membership of a terrorist organization” on May 11.

The Balıkesir 2nd Heavy Penal Court ordered his release on the 81st day since he was originally arrested.

The academic was released without parole and is not required to attend future hearings of the trial in person, according to the court’s ruling.

He was among more than 2,000 academics who signed a peace declaration called “We will not be a party to this crime”, which urged the AK Party (AKP) government to lift a series of curfews imposed in Kurdish-majority districts and towns in southeastern Turkey.

The curfews that continued for weeks in the fall and winter of 2015, following the breakdown of the peace process between Ankara and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), resulted in several civilian deaths and the displacement of at least 300,000 people.

Altinel’s arrest took place soon after he came to Turkey in April in order to attend his hearing in the trial of Academics for Peace, which are the first group of signatories.

According to the news report by Sadik Gulec from Gazete Duvar, one piece of evidence of the academic’s alleged link to the PKK cited in the indictment against him was his membership to the Lyone and Rhone-Alpes Kurdish Friendship Association (ALKRA).

The other evidence was his attendance of an event organized by ALKRA on February 21.

The mathematician argued during his defense on Tuesday’s hearing that ALKRA’s alleged affiliation with the PKK, which was reportedly mentioned in an intelligence report on him, was nothing more than an unsubstantiated claim.

“The Foreign Ministry and the Lyon Consulate have spied on me for being a citizen of Turkey who attended an event that touches upon delicate matters,” Altinel indicated.

He also made a reference to a verdict by Turkey’s Constitutional Court that the judiciary had violated the right to freedom of expression of academics who were charged with terror offenses for signing a peace declaration.

“To become an open, tolerant and democratic society, the only option is to fight to bring to light and face the most disturbing truths. However, my efforts to seek the truth, triggered a vile plot against me, let alone receiving support,” Altinel stated.

The hearing was observed by a number of opposition lawmakers that included the secularist Republican People’s Party (CHP) MPs Sezgin Tanrikulu and Ali Seker, as well as the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) lawmakers Zuleyha Gulum and Gulistan Kilic Kocyigit.

The PKK, an armed group that has been designated a terrorist organization by the Turkish government, has been fighting for Kurdish self-rule in predominantly Kurdish areas of south-eastern Turkey since 1984.

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

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