CALL FOR INTERNATIONAL ACADEMIC SOLIDARITY

As the trials of the peace academics reach to a new phase with an actual threat of  imprisonment, the academics have started a campaign, calling jurists, political scientists and other scholars of the world for an intervention. In their call, they ask international scholars to write down their anlysis of the indictment and the verdict that imposes 15 months of imprisonment. While the relevant court decision is being appealed in the Higher Court, raising an awareness in the international networks of jurists and scholars and making it visible in Turkey has a crucial importance. Their text reads as follows:

INFORMATION NOTE ON THE ONGOING CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS AND RECENT RULINGS AGAINST ACADEMICS FOR PEACE IN TURKEY

CALL FOR SOLIDARITY

Trials against academics who signed a petition by Academics for Peace continue in Istanbul. In some of these cases, a ruling was already delivered, and the defendant academics was found guilty for “making a terrorist propaganda” and sentenced to 15 months imprisonment. These cases have currently been appealed before the Court of Appeal.

We want to highlight these trials against signatory academics and request for urgent international support from our colleagues.

***

In a petition made public in January 2016[1], 2212 academics and researchers from Turkey, supported by several hundred international academics—called on the Turkish government to abide by the domestic and international law and to return to the peace process that had been interrupted in July 2015. After the petition was made public, the signatories were specifically targeted by President Erdoğan and subsequently attacked, threatened and became subject to administrative and criminal investigations. Some were arrested and kept in prison. 386 signatories have been listed in the state of emergency decrees as persons affiliated to terrorist organisations and dismissed from their positions and banned from public service for life.

First criminal proceedings against those signed the petition initiated against four signatories who read a second press statement of Academics for Peace on March 10, 2016. This statement condemned the persecution of signatory academics and affirmed signatories’ commitment to the wording of the petition of January 2016. Subsequently, three of these four signatories were arrested and kept on remand for 40 days. Since March 2016, the criminal proceedings against them are still pending.

In October 2017, other signatories of the petition, mostly the ones who are or were working at the universities in Istanbul, started to receive subpoenas, summoning them to the court with an accusation of carrying out terrorist propaganda. As of May 2018, more than 260 signatories are individually indicted before the Assize Courts with an indictment identical in content.

Academics, who are individually indicted, are being charged with carrying out terrorist propaganda under Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Act[2], while in the trial against those four academics who had read the second press statement the prosecutor had asked permission from the Minister of Justice for the continuation of the prosecution under Article 301 of the Penal Code.[3] Infamous Article 301 prohibits “degrading the Turkish Nation and the State of the Republic of Turkey and the organs and institutions of the State.” [4]

The charges in the indictments are not substantiated by factual evidences, the allegations are inconsistent and distort the facts of the petition. [5] In order to define an act as propaganda for a terrorist organization under Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Act, there must be an act having the characteristics of propaganda, which carried out in such a way that legitimizes or praises the coercive, violent and threatening actions of terrorist organizations or encourages the employment of these methods. In the Academics for Peace’s petition, there is no single expression having the characteristics of propaganda in favour of a terrorist organization. Neither does it legitimize or praise the coercive, violent and threatening methods of a terrorist organization nor does it encourage the employment of such methods. As to the charge under Article 301 of the Penal Code, the act of signing the petition cannot be considered an offence under the third paragraph of the Article, which explicitly excludes from its scope “expressions of an opinion for the purpose of criticism.”

The focal point of all the hearings held so far has been the lack of clarity regarding the charges. Along with the requests for immediate acquittal, defence lawyers underlined the uncertainty surrounding the definition of the charges by pointing to the decision of the Minister to grant permission for an investigation under Article 301 in the case against four academics. Lawyers of some signatories requested the courts to merge the cases of all academics, including the one against four signatories. They emphasized the need to avoid inconsistencies in the charges on which the prosecution will proceed and in the conclusions to be reached by different courts in relation to one identical act. On similar grounds, the courts with only one exception dismissed the requests for rejoinder of the cases.

This routine of requests, pleas, rejections and objections had kept going on until the 23th of February, where the 34th Assize Court of Istanbul had given its first expedited judgment and found three of the academics guilty for “carrying out terrorist propaganda” under Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Act. They have been sentenced to 15 months of imprisonment as the courts decided that the punishment shall be aggravated as the crime of carrying out terrorist propaganda has been deemed to be committed through means of media.

The courts, relying on the Penal Procedure Code, have offered the academics an option: the deferment of the announcement of the verdict, which enables the court not to announce the decision, and in the case that the defendant will not be found guilty for another crime in a certain period, to foreclose the case. When the accused accepts this mechanism to be applied, then the qualification of the action as a crime becomes officialised and the accused becomes deprived of any rights on appealing the case at a higher court[6].

Until today 13 academics have their judgments delivered and 12 of them have accepted to resort to the mechanism of the deferment of the announcement of the verdict. And so far, one signatory refused the application of this mechanism. In her case, the Court rejected the suspension of the punishment upon the grounds that she had not exhibited any expression of remorse. This academic has applied to the Court for Appeal (Istinaf) and she faces the risk of imprisonment.

Hundreds of other proceedings against other signatories are still on the course. It is still not clear in which way these 13 first rulings will affect the copy-pasted cases considering that the judiciary of the country is collapsing day by day under the state of emergency regime. The first case before the Court of Appeal will probably create a strong judicial precedent that will be highly persuasive while the decisions are made in the future cases against other signatories. All signatories are tried before various Assize Courts in Istanbul. Istanbul Regional Court of Justice is the competent court for the appeals. The cases will be reviewed by the same two criminal chambers of this Regional Court having competence on cases related to the Anti-Terror Act.

At this moment, your solidarity with our colleagues is crucial.

– We therefore would like to invite you to write short analysis on the verdicts delivered so far. For this purpose, we send you in the appendices the translation of the verdict against the signatory academic, who faces the risk of imprisonment. Please let us know if you were to write an analysis and to publish it on a blog of your choice so that we can also cross post it on the Blog of the Academics for Peace-Germany. If you wish to publish your analysis on this blog, you can directly send it to us.

– Many academics from different countries assist the hearings as observers. You can be in solidarity in the courtrooms. The presence of international observers during the hearings is crucial.

Please also feel free to distribute this call for solidarity among scholars who would be interested in supporting our call by either participating in the hearings or by writing a short analysis.

These actions for solidarity will certainly not suffice to change the course of this politically motivated trials, but certainly influence the way the hearings are held, strengthen the legal struggle of the Academics for Peace under judicial harassment.

Thank you for your concern and solidarity.

 

Academics for Peace – Germany

Legal Working Group

afp.jurists@gmail.com

 

 

For a detailed flow of the hearing processes, please see: https://bianet.org/konu/trial-of-academics

For the calendar of the hearings, please see here.

 

 

[1] The text of the petition in English, French, German, Spanish, Arabic, Russian, Greek is available at https://afp.hypotheses.org/documentation/the-peace-declaration

[2] The relevant part of Article 7/2 reads as follows: “Any person who disseminates propaganda in favour of a terrorist organisation by justifying, praising or encouraging the use of methods constituting coercion, violence or threats shall be liable to a term of imprisonment of one to five years. If this crime is committed through means of media, the penalty shall be increased by one half …”. The English translation of the Anti-Terror Act is available at www.legislationline.org/download/action/…/Turkey_anti_terr_1991_am2010_en.pdf

[3] For further information on the lack of clarity over the charges against signatory academics please see the Legal Brief on the “‘Crime’ Allegedly Committed by the Academics for Peace: Propaganda for a Terrorist Organization or Degrading the State of Turkish Republic? At https://afp.hypotheses.org/236

[4] Article 301 of the Penal Code reads as follows:

“1. A person who publicly degrades the Turkish nation, the State of the Republic of Turkey, the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, the Government of the Republic of Turkey or the judicial bodies of the State, shall be sentenced to a penalty of imprisonment for a term of six months to two years.

  1. A person who publicly degrades the military or security organisations of the State shall be sentenced to a penalty in accordance with paragraph 1 above.
  2. The expression of an opinion for the purpose of criticism does not constitute an offence.
  3. The conduct of an investigation into such an offence shall be subject to the permission of the Minister of Justice.”

[5] English translation of the bill of indictment is available at https://afp.hypotheses.org/documentation/bill-of-indictment. A commented summary of the bill of indictment in English is available at https://afp.hypotheses.org/documentation/a-commentary-on-the-indictment

 

[6] For more information, see: https://afp.hypotheses.org/408.

 

 

 


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