Turkey: Imprisoned Academics Must be Released
This post originally appeared on PEN International’s website.
March 16, 2016 – PEN International, PEN Turkey, and Kurdish PEN condemn the latest attack on free expression in Turkey as three academics who signed a peace petition in January 2016 were yesterday imprisoned by an Istanbul court on suspicion of “making terrorist propaganda,” pending the completion of a criminal investigation.
“This latest attack on free expression is yet another troubling development as President Erdoğan targets critical voices and attempts to silence all dissent in Turkey. We call on the authorities to immediately drop all investigations and punitive measures against those who signed the declaration and to uphold Turkey’s commitments to free speech and the rule of law,” said Salil Tripathi, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee.
Those arrested are among more than 1,400 academics who signed a public statement, “We won’t Be a Party to This Crime” which urged the government in Ankara to “abandon its deliberate massacre and deportation of Kurdish and other peoples in the region.” The petition was signed by 1,128 academics from 90 Turkish universities and 355 other academics from around the world including Noam Chomsky and Slavoj Žižek. At least 30 other academics have been dismissed and 27 suspended by their universities pending investigation. The Istanbul prosecutor responsible for terrorism crimes is conducting a criminal investigation into all the academics who signed the petition and many local investigations are taking place. President Erdoğan publically denounced the group in a televised speech, accusing them of “treason” and of forming a “fifth column” of foreign powers trying to undermine Turkey’s national security.
The detention and investigation of the academics by Turkish authorities against the signatories is yet another example of the growing intolerance for critical voices in the country with increasingly serious consequences for freedom of expression. PEN calls on Turkey to release the academics and cease immediately its crackdown on dissident voices and act in accordance with its obligations to respect the right to freedom of expression.
The arrest of the academics comes in the wake of a deteriorating security situation in Turkey, with increasing conflict in the Kurdish areas in the south-east and bomb attacks in major cities, including the capital Ankara.