Turkish courts dismiss terror charges against six more peace academics

Six academics who have been facing trial over terror charges for signing a petition for peace in Turkey’s southeast in 2016 were acquitted by Diyarbakir and Istanbul courts. The Gazete Duvar news website reported on Monday that academics Fikret Uyar, Suleyman Kizil, and Murat Biricik were acquitted by the Diyarbakir 11th Heavy Penal Court of “making propaganda for a terrorist organization.”

The Istanbul 28th Heavy Penal Court also acquitted academics Cem Terzi, Sevilay Celenk and Ali Riza Gungen who were on trial for signing the 2016 peace declaration.

The acquittal of the six academics followed a decision by Turkey’s Constitutional Court (AYM) on July 26 that the Turkish judiciary had violated their right to freedom of expression by charging them with terror offenses for signing the peace petition.

An AYM verdict is binding for all subordinate courts across Turkey’s legal landscape and judicial system.

So far, a total of seven peace academics were declared innocent after a decision by Turkey’s top court, with the first one being Ozlem Sendeniz, who was facing trial in the Istanbul 30th Heavy Penal Court.

Signed by more than 2000 academics, the petition titled – ‘We will not be a party to this crime’ criticized Turkish forces for using heavy weaponry in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish-populated southeast and urged the ruling AK Party (AKP) to lift a series of long curfews imposed there.

The declaration for peace also called for an end to clashes and conflict between Turkish security forces and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is designated by Ankara as a terrorist organization.

PKK is an armed militant group that has been fighting for Kurdish self-rule in Turkey since 1984.

After the breakdown of the peace process between the Turkish government and the PKK, the curfews that lasted for weeks in the fall and winter of 2015 lead to several civilian deaths and the displacement of at least 300,000 people.

During the two-year emergency rule that came after a failed putsch bid that targeted President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP government on July 15, 2016, hundreds of peace academics were sacked from their jobs through state-of-emergency decrees issued by the ruling AKP.

A number of the declaration’s signatories were also subjected to travel bans and had their passports revoked.

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