Written by Margaret Owen
Wednesday 20th April
Tomorrow, I leave for Istanbul to join other international observers to report on the Trial of Turkish Academics. The trial, which opens this Friday, April 22nd will be a test of how independent the Turkish judiciary really is and will also expose the realities of Turkey’s adherence to fundamental human rights, enshrined in international and European law, such as freedom of speech.
Since March 2016, four academics – Professors Esra Mungan Gürsoy, Meral Camcı, Kıvanç Ersoy and Muzaffer Kaya – have been held in pre-trial detention and accused of terrorist propaganda under Article 7(2) of the Anti-Terror Law. On the 22nd April 2016, they go on trial, facing potential sentences of between 1½ and 7½ years imprisonment.
50 academics have already lost their jobs, sacked by their universities and some 1128 Turkish academics who signed the petition calling for peace have been indicted.
This trial, politically motivated, is the latest stage in a series of assaults on academic freedom in Turkey. In January, over 1400 academics (including over 1100 working in Turkish universities) signed an open letter in which they criticized the Turkish government’s ‘deliberate and planned massacre’ of its Kurdish population, calling for a road map to peace. The response has been to accuse these academics of supporting terrorism, and signatories have come under sustained persecution including investigations, arrests, interrogations, suspensions and termination of positions.
I hope that we will not encounter any problems on this mission, and that these prosecutions will be withdrawn.
Margaret Owen OBE
Patron of Peace in Kurdistan
Image source: www.britannica.com