This statement originally appeared on PEN International’s website. 

PEN International calls for the immediate release of 12 academics in Turkey, arrested for signing a statement denouncing attacks on ‘Kurdish and other peoples’ and for investigations into 1,116 other academics to be dropped.

Turkish authorities detained 12 academics on Friday January 15, 2016, accusing them of “making propaganda for a terrorist organization”and “insulting the state.” Those arrested were among more than 1,400 academics who signed a public statement, ‘We won’t Be a Party to This Crime’, urging 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.

The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has launched investigations into all 1,128 Turkish signatories.  If convicted, they could face between one and five years in prison.

According to Turkish news agency Anadolu, the academics were detained in early-morning raids on their homes. Turkish authorities have issued arrest warrants for nine others. All 21 academics are from Kocaeli University in northwestern Turkey.

President Recep Tayyip 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 campaign 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 cease immediately its crackdown on dissident voices and act in accordance with its obligations to respect the right to freedom of expression.

For more information contact Sahar Halaimzai: | 0044 (0)207 405 0338