The Chroniques of the Hearings of Peace Academics
December 5, 2017 – The first hearings of 6 academics from Galatasaray University and 4 academics from Istanbul University has been held. The judge had refused the requests of immediate acquittance. The request for changing the scope of the charge from “making propaganda for a terrorist organisation”(Article 7-2 of the Turkish Anti-Terror Law) to “denigrating Turkey, the Turkish Nation and the Turkish Government” (Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code) has also been refused. All the hearings have been adjourned to April 2018.
Note: The qualification of the alleged crime has a peculiar importance. Not because Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code sets forth a lesser period of imprisonment, but because, as to the decisions of ECHR, it cannot be qualified as a legal as it builds itself on the legally vague concept of “Turkish Nation”. Therefore, the official qualification of the alleged crime within the scope of Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code would make the unlawfulness of the case more visible. Besides, on the case of the 4 academics regarding the declaration of March 10, 2016, the Ministry of Justice had sent a letter to the relevant court of 13th Assize Court to give permission to carry out the judgment in accordance with the Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code.
December 7, 2017 – The first hearings of 31 Academics from Galatasaray University and Istanbul University have been held in different Assize Courts in Istanbul.
In the 32th Assize Court, the initial hearings of 10 academics have been held. In the first hearing, the relevant academic has chosen to give her testimony. She has declared that her sole intention in undersigning the petition is to contribute to the establishment of peace and she requested her acquittance. Her lawyer argued that she has seen the state as her addressee in the declaration and the intention was peaceful. The lawyer also argued that the attributed crime in the indictment does not exist in the text of the declaration and contrary to the accusation, the text does not defamate Turkish Government but instead, the Government is breaching the international conventions that it has undersigned by ignoring the right to freedom of expression. He also reminded the court about the death threat publicly made by a famous mob-leader against the academics and underlined the passivity of the state against these threats. The court refused the request of acquittance and adjourned the case to February 23, 2018.
For the remaining 12 hearings held in that court, all the requests of acquittance were refused. The judges have also refused to hold the trial with regards to Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code. The academics requested additional time to prepare their pleas. The hearings were adjourned to December 22th (seven of them) and to February 23th (six of them).
In the 33th Assize Court, 11 different academics had their initial hearings. 2 of these 11 academics were absent on hearings and they have been decided to call on a hearing to be held on January 31, 2018. Lawyers of the 8 of the 9 remaining academics have requested immediate acquittance and rejoinder of the actions regarding other peace academics. One of the lawyers have not requested immediate acquittance but instead, requested the court to ask for the letter of permission granted to the 13th Assize Court that lets the court to judge the 4 academics (that are being judged for their press declaration dated March 10, 2016) in accordance with the Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code. The academics haven’t given their testimony today and the hearings were adjourned to 31th of January (for 8 of the academics) and 8th of February (for 3 of the academics).
In the 34th Assize Court, a total number of 12 hearings were held. The court had refused the request of immediate acquittance on the grounds that the plea of defences have not been submitted yet. The hearings have been adjourned to May 10, 2018. The request for adjoining the relevant cases has also been refused.
A remarkable incident worth mentioning is that, the court had not let the academics defended by more than three lawyers. Relying on a Governmental Decree (that has been issued within the state of exception) the court has only let three lawyers to sit at the defence bench and forced the remaining lawyers to the part of the public audience.
December 12, 2017 – The first hearing of one of the academics has been held. The academician had stated that s/he has undersigned the petition form for the intentions of establishing peace and s/he wanted the state to re-start the negotiation process. S/he has stated that her addressee would be no other organisation but the state.
The lawyer requested for the immediate acquittance of the suspect. The court has rejected the request and adjourned the case to April 5, 2015.
December 19, 2017 – The first hearings of three academicians have been held. The first hearing has been held in Istanbul 36th Assize Court. The lawyer of the relevant academic has demanded additional time to make the plea of defence prepared. The case has been adjourned to April 19, 2018. In the second hearing in 36th Assize Court, the lawyers have requested for the immediate acquittance of the academician and they have stated that, since the suspect had used her/his right to free speech in the declaration, it is possible for the court to issue an acquittance before hearing the plea of defence. It is also requested to joinder the case with the case of the four academics that is being adjudicated in 13th Assize Court. The court has decided to request the relevant documents from the 13th Assize Court and adjourned the case to April 19, 2018.
Another hearing was held in 32th Assize Court. The academic has stated that s/he has undersigned the declaration with the intention of calling for the truth in the name of peace. The lawyers have requested additional time for the plea and they have demanded for the removal of the ban on leaving the country that makes the academic unable to leave Turkey. The court has decided for the REMOVAL OF THE BAN and adjourned the case to February 23, 2018.
December 21, 2017 – The first hearings of a total number of 18 academics have been held in two separate assize courts (8 of them in 33th Assize Court and 10 of them in 36th Assize Court)
In 33th Assize Court of Istanbul, relying on the relevant Governmental Decree, only three lawyers were allowed to defend the regarding suspects for each case. The lawyers have objected the decision and reminded the court of the decisions of the Constitutional Court on the right to defence. The requests of acquittance and carrying out the judgment through Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code has been refused. The requests regarding rejoinder of the cases with the case seen at 13th Assize Court regarding the academics will be evaluated after the academics will give their plea of defence in the following hearings. Remarkably, the lawyer of one of the academics have underlined that, the academic on trial have been publicly targeted by the public authorities just because s/he has used her/his freedom of expression and requested this fact as the starting point for the judgment. All the relevant requests have been rejected and all the cases have been adjourned to April 24, 2018.
In 36th Assize Court, 9 of the 10 academics have requested for additional time for preparing their pleas. The court has rejected the relevant requests of acquittance, joinder of the cases and asking for the opinion of the Ministry of Justice. The lawyers have underlined the political nature of the judgment and they have reminded the court about their duty to protect the right to defence as inscribed by the Constitutional Court. 8 of these 9 nine cases have been adjourned to April 24, 2018 and one of them has been adjourned to April 5, 2018.
Only one of the academics had given her/his testimony. In her/his plea of defence, the relevant academic has underlined the following points:
- The case has a very strong political tone. The clarity about the qualification of the crime and the vague content of the Indictment, that has been prepared a la copy-paste are indicators of these. Also, the parallelity between the administrative measures of the government and the judicial processes initiated by the courts together with a strong media propaganda undermine the reliability of the legal credibility of the case.
- The existence of this case cannot be soundly evaluated without referring to the State of Emergency situation. The wide range of the requested punishments and the thrive for inventing a crime out of the Peace Declaration can only be understood by the government’s motives to eliminate all kinds of dissident voices through the excuse created by the coup attempt.
- The right to peace is a constitutional right and undersigning the subject declaration is the articulation of this right demand on a political level. But interestingly, the persons who have given their consents to this demand have been targeted as objects of lynch, and none of the perpetrators of this lynch face any kind of legal coercion.
- In modern, democratic states that are ruled though the sovereignty of law, the judge occupies a crucial role and exercises three important functions: As a factor of democracy, as a mentor/coach of democracy and as an actor of democracy. In that sense, peace and freedom, as crucial elements of democracy, is a common concern both for the judiciary and the academia. In this case, the judiciary must treat the demand for peace through its responsibility about democracy and be aware of the fact that, it can serve its functions as long as it is independent, just like academia itself.
The case of the relevant academic has been adjourned to April 24, 2018.
December 22, 1017 – Second hearings of 7 academics from Istanbul University and Galatasaray University have been held in 32th Assize Court of Istanbul. 6 of these academics were present in the courtrooms and have submitted their pleas. In giving their pleas and in answering the questions of the court, the academics have underlined the facts that, by undersigning the peace declaration, they have exercised their freedom of expression; their intentions were helping to establish the peace; they have chosen the state as their addressee as they were also exercising a public duty; and they were not instructed to sign the petition by anybody. They have also stressed that the indictment evaluates the texts with a conjunctural approach, which is not sound while the state itself had used the same vocabulary during the peace negotiations in a conjunctural way.
During the hearings, the court has applied the relevant Governmental Decree that limits the number of lawyers present in a case by three. All the requests for the rejoinder of cases have been refused and the cases were adjourned to April 6, 2018.
December 26, 2017 – At the 13th Assize Court of Istanbul, the sixth hearing of the four academics that are being judged since March 2016 due to the content of the press statement of March 10, 2016 has been held. The lawyers have stated that they have been informed about the fact that the letter of the Ministry of Justice that permits the court to carry out the judgment through Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code instead of Article 7/2 of the Turkish Anti-Terror Law has been delivered to the court. The court has decided to ask for information to the relevant officials about the deliverance of the letter and adjourned the case to April 18, 2018.
At the 36th Assize Court of Istanbul, the first hearings of three academics have been held. The requests for immediate acquittance have been refused. Upon the request for the adjoinder of the cases with the case held on 13th Assize Court, the court has decided to request and examine the relevant files and adjourned the case to May 8, 2018.
January 4, 2018 – The first hearings of the four academics have been held at the 36th Assize Court of Istanbul. The lawyers have requested for an immediate acquittance and rejoinder of the case with the one that is adjudicated at 13th Assize Court. The court has rejected the request for acquittance and decided that. The request for rejoinder will be decided upon when the relevant case files are sent to them. Additionally, one of the lawyers asserted an unconstitutionality claim regarding Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Law and requested the court to take the relevant article before the constitutional court. The court has rejected this request and the cases have been adjourned to 19th, 24th and 26th of April 2018.
January 10, 2018 – The first hearings of two academics have been held in 35th Assize Court of Istanbul. The requests of immediate acquittance have been rejected. The lawyers have requested the rejoinder of the cases with the case ongoing on 13th Assize Court, regarding the Four Academics. This requests, which is supplemented by the decisions of the Constitutional Court and ECHR has also been rejected. The cases have been adjourned to June 26, 2018.
January 18, 2018 – The first hearings of 12 academics from 4 universities have been held. 10 of those academics were present at the hearings. The requests of immediate acquittance and rejoinder of the cases were rejected. The request for the case file of the “Four Academics” to be demanded from the 13th Assize Court has been accepted. The lawyers have underlined the ambiguity about the Article that the judgment will rely upon /Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Law and Article 301 of the Penal Code) and asked it to be clarified. One of the academics have stressed that her intention in undersigning the declaration was protecting the civilians against the war. Another one of them has underlined that it is her duty to remind the public about the principles that holds it together and this feeling of duty is her ground for undersigning the declaration. Another academic, a jurist in profession, has stated that he had not received the indictment as, to his legal knowledge, the document submitted to him with the title of “The Indictment” is not eligible to be counted as an indictment.
Five of the hearings have been adjourned to June 28, 2018, three of them to July 12, 2018 and one of them to September 18, 2018.
January 31, 2018 – The second hearings of seven academics from Galatasaray and Istanbul universities have been held in the 33th Assize Court of Istanbul. The court has accepted the requests of granting of additional time, asking for the case file from 13th Assize Court and being held exempted from the hearings. The requests of immediate acquittance and rejoinder of cases have been rejected. The head of the court had stated that the judgment can be focused on the second sentence of the Article 7/2 of the Turkish Anti-Terror Law, which, upon the grounds of using means of mass media in committing the crime, provides for a longer punishment.
The academics have stressed that undersigning the declaration is under the scope of freedom of thought and expression. It is a call for peace any attribution of its content with terror is mere fantasy. They have stated that the declaration had the aim of contributing to the social memory in a peaceful way because violence had already distorted this memory and shaded the hope of peace.
The six of the hearings have been adjourned to June 19, 2018, one of them being adjourned to June 22, 2018.
February 6, 2018 – The first hearings of four academics from Yıldız Teknik, Maltepe and Marmara Universities have been held. Three of them have attended the hearings. The court has rejected the requests of immediate acquittance and rejoinder of cases. The lawyers have argued that the cases have a rejoinder nature in their unity and stressed the fact that the Ministry of justice had also recommended the rejoinder. But the court has argued that the rejoinder would prolong the process. The hearings have been adjourned to June 10, 2018.
February 8, 2018 – The second hearings of the four academicians from İstanbul and Galatasaray Universities have been held. The requests of acquittance have been rejected. The Court had granted additional time for the preparation of the pleas and accepted to request the dossier of the case held at the 13th Assize Court. In the hearings, the academics have underlined the inconsistencies of the case file and stressed the necessity of taking the state as their addressee for requesting peace. European Association for Lawyers for Democracy-World Human Rights and Democratic Jurists Switzerland have attended the hearings as observers. The hearings have been adjourned to June 18, 2018.
February 15, 2018 – The first hearings of 15 academics have been held in 34th and 36th Assize Courts of İstanbul. The courts have rejected the requests of immediate acquittance and rejoinder of the cases. The 34th Assize Court have decided to request information from the Persecutor’s Office about the nature of the declarations of January 11, 2016 and March 10, 2016. The lawyers have stated that the refusal of the rejoinder of the cases may prolong the process but on the other hand, it will secure the right to a fair trial by creating the opportunity for evaluating the merits of the case and the relevant evidences. The Courts have adjourned the hearings to September 27, 2018.
February 18, 2018 – The first hearings of three academicians from Yıldız Teknik and Kadir Has Universities have been held in 34th and 36th Assize Courts of İstanbul. The requests of immediate acquittance and rejoinder of cases have been rejected by both of the courts. However, the 34th Assize Court has rejected the request of asking for the relevant case file from the 13th Assize Court in order to evaluate the option of rejoindering the case that is being judged there, the 36th Assize Court has accepted the same request.
During the hearings, one of the academics has presented several resolutions of ECHR showing the limits of state interference in freedom of speech. Another one stated that s/he has lectured in Law Schools for many years and she put forward that the mentioned declaration is, both by its wording and spirit, impossible to be deemed under Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Law.
The hearings have been adjourned to November 13, 2018.