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World

AFP
December 6, 2017

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Turkey opens ‘terror’ trial of academics over peace petition

ISTANBUL: Turkey on Tuesday began the hugely controversial trial of a group of academics charged with terror offences for signing a petition calling for peace in the Kurdish-dominated southeast.
Over 1,120 Turkish and also foreign academics signed the petition which emerged in January 2016 calling for an end to the military’s crackdown on outlawed Kurdish rebels in the southeast that had begun six months earlier. The academics say the petition was an apolitical call for peace but prosecutors charged 146 of the signatories with making propaganda for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
The first 10 -- from Istanbul University and Galatasaray University -- went on trial in Istanbul on Tuesday with the hearing attended by EU diplomats including the French ambassador. Each suspect had a 10-minute hearing at the start of a marathon process expected to continue until at least April. The prosecution has chosen not to stage a mass trial involving all the suspects in the same case.
In the first hearings, the defence argued that the petition was "within boundaries of freedom of expression" and demanded their immediate acquittal, an AFP journalist in the court said. Their next hearings will take place on April 12. Ten more academics will appear in court on Thursday with further sessions scheduled throughout December and January.
Outside the court, students gathered in support of their lecturers, brandishing banners with slogans, including: "Don’t touch my professor!" If convicted, the suspects face up to seven-and-a-half years in jail. None of those who went on trial on Tuesday is currently being held behind bars.
Professor Ibrahim Kaboglu, whose hearing is set for December 21, called the trial an "absurdity". "It’s a paradoxical dilemma. There’s no logic. It cannot be justified legally," said Kaboglu, who lost his job after signing the petition.
Renowned US philosopher and linguist Noam Chomsky, who also signed the petition, issued a

statement in solidarity with the Turkish scholars, criticising the penal case as a "shocking miscarriage of justice."

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