Academic for Peace Tuna Altınel Released
The court has ruled for the release of Assoc. Prof. Altınel without judicial control measures. He is charged with “membership of a terrorist organization” because of interpreting speeches in a conference.
Assoc. Prof. Tuna Altınel from the Lyon 1 University was arrested on May 11 because of simultaneously interpreting the speeches in a conference held in France in February on the “Cizre basements,” where 189 people died in a military operation in 2015. He is also on trial for having signed the peace declaration against the 2015-2016 operations in the country’s southeast.
On the 81st day of his arrest, he appeared before the judge in his first hearing today (July 30) at the Balıkesir 2nd Heavy Penal Court.
Many people, including politicians, journalists and academics, came to Balıkesir Courthouse to support Altınel.
In his statement of defense, Altınel said that his membership of the ALKRA (Lyone and Rhone-Alpes Kurdish Friendship Association) cannot prove his membership to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) as it is a legal association in France.
The bill of indictment alleged that the ALKRA “operates together with the armed terrorist organization PKK,” charging Altınel with “membership of a terrorist organization.”
The prosecutor requested that Altınel shall be released upon judicial control considering the time he spent under arrest and that the case file should be sent to the Supreme Court of Appeals 5th Chamber.
The court ruled that Altınel shall be released without judicial control, also exempting him from the forthcoming hearings.
Altınel’s statement of defense
In his statement of defense, Altınel briefly said the following:
“Today, friends of democracy from various places in the world are here.
“I am present in front of you because I attended an event held by the ALKRA, or the Lyone and Rhone-Alpes Kurdish Friendship Association on February 21, 2019. I am charged with membership of a terrorist organization. The text called the bill of indictment leans on two concrete facts to reach this conclusion: One, my membership to the mentioned association, and two, the mentioned event.
“In the last paragraph where the type of my crime is tried to be proved as membership of a terrorist organization, it is evaluated that the association is ‘operating together with the armed terrorist organization PKK/KCK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party/Kurdistan Communities Union].
“The ALKRA is a legal association that was founded in line with the laws of France. It was founded in 2013 by Thierry Lamberthod, a citizen of France and the current chairperson and his friends. All its board members are French.
“The aim of the association which does not have a certain political line is to promote Kurdish culture, to establish platforms that will ensure the recognition of the rights of the Kurdish people, and contributing to the economic, social and cultural projects aimed for peace.
“The long and the short of it, it is not possible for such an association to be an extension of a terrorist organization.
“Anyway, neither in the intelligence notice of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs nor in the bill of indictment there is concrete information or evidence regarding the connection between the association that I am a member of and the PKK/KCK.
“Let’s get to the mentioned event. The event was held by the association which I am a member of. I, as a member of the association, contributed it. The purpose was to make a discussion and a study of memory based on witness accounts. Propagandizing for any legal or illegal organization was not in question.
“Faysal Sarıyıldız was chosen and invited because he was an MP from Şırnak in the period where the mentioned incidents occurred and a first-hand witness of the incidents. When he came to Lyon, it was clearly told him that the event was not for political propaganda.
“He made a speech, shared visuals and answered questions. Contrary to the allegation on the ninth page of the indictment, he neither presented nor moderated the event. Drawing such a conclusion from a photograph can only be seen in an indictment that is hastily written in two days.
“Within the event, communication between the languages of Turkish and French was up to me. Because I had the best command on both of these languages, I undertook the French-Turkish part of the simultaneous interpretation. I would like to emphasize this again: There was no such thing as ‘presenting with Faysal Sarıyıldız.’
“So, what happened after this? I was chosen as the target and subjected to an extrajudicial execution. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs spied on me because I, as a citizen of the Republic of Turkey, attended an event that touched on sensitive matters. My passport was confiscated on April 12, 2019, in my last entrance to Turkey where I frequently come.
“In İstanbul, I knocked on every door that came to my mind for a month. I did not receive any satisfying response. At last, I came to Balıkesir. When the officer who send me away, saying, ‘You came here for nothing,’ at the passport confiscation branch at the Governorship of Balıkesir and invited me to the governorship, I, so to speak, ran to the governorship. I was detained in front of the Governorship of Balıkesir as if I was a criminal who attempted to run away. I was brought to the Anti-Terror Branch without any explanation was given to me. On the following day, on May 11, I was arrested on the allegation of ‘propagandizing for a terrorist organization.’ A few hours after my arrest, the Governorship of Balıkesir declared me as an ‘academic who propagandize for a terrorist organization,’ disregarding the presumption of innocence.
“The charge of ‘propagandizing for a terrorist organization’ which was used for my arrest was not enough to explain the unjust and prejudiced attitude I was subjected to. They stepped up a gear. With allegations that do not have any basis and consistency, they raised the charge to ‘membership of a terrorist organization’. Dear judges, I am not a member of a terrorist organization. The only thing I do and the reason that I have been arrested for almost three months is that I contributed to an event of a legal organization. What experienced in those days have been subject to the reports of national and international rights organizations and judicial verdicts, notably those of the ECtHR since mid-2015.
“For the last part, the General Assembly of the Constitutional Court ruled that the penalization of academics who signed the text titled, “We will not be a party to this crime,” which I also signed, is against the law. Apparently, the government is uncomfortable about this matter to be spoken, questioned and enlightened. But, truths emerge with opposite ideas expressed without bans
“I request your court to not pay attention to the uproar created about me, not be a tool for this injustice and immediately rule for my release.
“One of the reasons for my arrest was ‘suspicion of escape’. I would like to remind a sentence in my statement to the police that is not included in the bill of indictment on purpose: ‘If I would like to insult Turkey, I would certainly not come to Turkey. I would like to repeat the same sentence with changing it a bit: ‘If I had an intention to escape, I would not have come to Turkey. In brief, I want freedom.'”