Turkey court acquits academic over peace petition

Turkey court acquits academic over peace petition
Ozlem Sendeniz was one among hundreds charged with terrorism for signing an open letter condemning the conflict between Turkey and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
2 min read
06 September, 2019
The prosecutor called for charges against Sendeniz to be dropped. [Getty]
A Turkish court has for the first time acquitted one of nine academics who faced terrorism charges for signing a letter in 2016 calling for an end to the conflict in southeastern Turkey, AFP reported.

The decision sets a precedent for hundreds of others who face similar charges.

The independent Bianet news site named the acquitted academic as Ozlem Sendeniz of Igdır University.

He was one of almost 2,000 academics that signed the open letter condemning months of fighting between the Turkish armed forces and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Calling themselves 'Academics for Peace' the 1,128 initial signatories of the letter published in January 2016 included Turkish scholars and prominent scholars and intellectuals such as American linguist Noam Chomsky and Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek.

"Our teacher was acquitted. This is the first acquittal decision in our hearings," said the Academics for Peace twitter account.

The prosecutor at the Istanbul court called for the charges against Sendeniz to be dropped based on a ruling by Turkey's constitutional court in July.

The constitutional court had been hearing an appeal by nine of those convicted over the petition, and narrowly agreed that their right to free expression had been violated. 

Some 200 signatories in Turkey have been convicted of "terrorist propaganda" over the petition and sentenced to between 15 months and three years in prison, according to Bianet. Hundreds more are still facing trial. 

 The peace petition followed the collapse of a two-year ceasefire between the Turkish armed forces and the PKK, which has waged a bloody insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984.

Fighting then intensified in the southeast and Turkish authorities also imposed months-long curfews in many areas as part of their anti-PKK operations. 

Ankara and its Western allies blacklist the PKK as a terrorist group.

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