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Turkish academics released pending propaganda trial

OZAN KOSE / AFP | Employees of Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet daily Erdem Gul (L) and Can Dundar (C) take part in a rally by supporters of four jailed Turkish in Istanbul on April 22, 2016.

Four Turkish academics jailed on charges of spreading terrorist propaganda were released pending trial by an Istanbul court on Friday, a group of their colleagues said on Facebook.


Turkish authorities arrested the four in March after they publicly read out a declaration calling for an end to security operations in the mainly Kurdish southeast.

Esra Mungan Gursoy, Meral Camci, Kivanc Ersoy and Muzaffer Kaya faced up to seven and a half years behind bars if convicted, according to Academics for Peace (BAK), the organisation behind the contested statement.

‘The same groundless allegations’

They were among more than 2,000 academics who signed a petition calling for peace. It was also endorsed by dozens of foreigners, among them American linguist Noam Chomsky and the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek. President Tayyip Erdogan later said that those who signed the petition would pay a price for their “treachery”.

Two journalists who also signed the petition and had been accused of divulging state secrets attended the third hearing of their espionage trial at the same central Istanbul courthouse where the scholars’ case had been heard earlier.

“We are at the academics’ hearing. The same groundless allegations,” tweeted Can Dundar, editor-in-chief of the leading opposition daily Cumhuriyet, who is on trial with his Ankara bureau chief, Erdem Gul, for allegedly trying to unseat the government.

Academics for Peace, which represents those who signed the petition, released a statement on its Facebook page after the academics’ release, saying: “We are excited to announce the release of our colleagues. We will read out a press statement in front of the courthouse soon.”

‘Deliberate massacres and deportation’

The petition, signed in January, criticised military action in the southeast, including round-the-clock curfews aimed at rooting out the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants who have barricaded themselves in residential areas in southeastern cities. Hundreds of civilians, security forces and militants have been killed since the conflict with the PKK reignited last July in the worst violence Turkey has seen for 20 years.

The petition urged Ankara to halt “its deliberate massacres and deportation of Kurdish and other peoples in the region”.

Erdogan accused the signers of falling into a “pit of treachery”. The decision to haul scholars and journalists into court has deepened unease over freedom of expression under the increasingly autocratic Erdogan. The US and European Union have already expressed concern over the trial of Dundar and Gul who face life behind bars over a story accusing the government of seeking to illicitly deliver arms to Islamists in Syria.

The next hearing for the four academics will be in September, Academics for Peace said.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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