Turkey acquits first academic for signing peace petition after top court ruling

A Turkish court has ruled that an academic, who has been facing trial over signing a peace petition, did not create propaganda for a terrorist organization, Gazete Duvar news website reported on Thursday.

Ahmet Kardam, who was among more than 2,000 academics who signed the petition titled “We will not be a party to this crime,” was acquitted on Thursday of terror charges against him, by the Izmir 13th Heavy Penal Court.

The petition, signed in 2016, criticized the Turkish army for using heavy weaponry in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish-populated southeastern provinces and urged the ruling AK Party (AKP) government to lift a series of long curfews imposed in the region.

The declaration also urged the end of clashes between state forces and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is classified by the Turkish government as a terrorist organization.

PKK is an armed militant group that has been fighting for Kurdish self-rule in predominantly Kurdish areas of south-eastern Turkey for more than three decades.

As of January 30, 2019, a total of 452 academics had been tried on charges of creating terrorism propaganda after signing the petition.

Hundreds of peace academics were dismissed from their jobs through state-of-emergency decrees issued by the government during the two-year emergency rule that followed the failed military coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Many signatories were also subject to travel bans and had their passports revoked.

The Izmir court’s ruling to acquit the academic came after a Constitutional Court (AYM) decision on July 26 that the Turkish judiciary had violated academics’ right to freedom of expression by charging them with terror offenses for signing the peace petition.

The AYM verdict, in response to an appeal by nine academics who were charged with terror crimes, is expected to serve as a precedent for ongoing trials, as it is binding for all subordinate courts across Turkey’s legal landscape and judicial system.

Arif Ali Cangi, a lawyer representing the first academician to be declared innocent after the decision by Turkey’s top court, told Serkan Alan from Gazete Duvar that it was the right decision and that he expected more verdicts like this for other academics currently facing trial.

Cangi further elaborated that all courts should immediately acquit defendants facing similar charges, while prosecutors should not start any new legal action against academics under investigation.

“This is the requirement of the rule of law,” Cangi underlined.

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