Seventh hearing of trial into 4 academics who signed Academics for Peace petition held at Istanbul Courthouse

The seventh hearing of a case where academics Esra Mungan, Meral Camcı, Muzaffer Kaya and Kıvanç Ersoy are standing trial for signing January 2016’s Academics for Peace petition entitled “We will not be a party to this crime” was held on April 18 at the 13th High Criminal Court of Istanbul.

The four academics had been detained for several weeks as part of an investigation launched following a press conference they had held on March 10, 2016, on behalf of the hundreds of academics who had signed the petition. The petition was in protest of human rights abuses during military operations conducted across several provinces in southeast Turkey.

All four were released during the first hearing of the trial on April 22, 2016. 

Wednesday’s hearing was attended by Mungan and the lawyer representing all four academics, Meriç Eyüboğlu. The hearing was monitored in the courtroom by P24 and representatives from the Embassy of Norway and the Consulate-General of France.

During the hearing, Eyüboğlu noted that the Ministry of Justice had approved that the prosecution could charge the academics for “denigrating Turkishness” as per Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK). According to the said article, a formal permission from the ministry is mandatory prior to seeking a sentence on this particular charge.

“Article 301 of the TCK is considered as null and void by the European Court of Human Rights,” Eyüboğlu said referring to previous judgments concerning Turkey rendered by the European court. “It is not possible to deprive people of their freedom or sentence them based on this article,” she told the court.

The prosecutor is also seeking a sentence based on the charge of “conducting propaganda for a terrorist organization” as per Article 7/2 of the Fight against Terrorism Law of Turkey (TMK). Eyüboğlu said the law requires the presence of violence as a condition, which is nonexistent in the case. “This trial can neither be based on ‘propaganda’ nor “denigrating Turkishness” charges, because there is no crime,” she said.

Eyüboğlu said the academics’ declaration criticized the government’s policies and offered solutions for peace. “A text demanding peace and which constitutes nothing more than the exercising of freedom of expression cannot be considered ‘terrorism propaganda’,” Eyüboğlu told the court.

The court then ruled to send the case file to the prosecutor for his final opinion, and adjourned the trial until October 9, 2018.

Lawyer says Peace Academics trials should be merged

During a press statement following the hearing, Eyüboğlu said that around 300 separate trials have been opened against hundreds of signatories of the Academics for Peace declaration, and added that all these trials should be merged into a single case. 

Noting that the case against Mungan, Camcı, Kaya and Ersoy was the first trial to be opened following the declaration, Eyüboğlu said that the other cases should be merged with this trial.

Eyüboğlu said they had been waiting for almost two years for the assessment of the files by the Ministry of Justice and criticized the government’s approval of seeking a sentence under the TCK article 301. “No one here can be put on trial under any of these articles,” she said.

The Academics for Peace petition was made public on January 10, 2016, with the initially 1,128 signatories. The number of signatories surpassed 2,000 in the weeks that followed despite a strong reaction from the government.

Mungan, Kaya and Ersoy were arrested on March 14, 2016 and jailed pending trial a day later. Camcı was also jailed pending trial upon returning to Turkey on March 31, 2016. All four academics were released during the first hearing of the trial.

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