Füsun Üstel, a French-speaking historian, now retired from Galatasaray University in Istanbul, and one of the signatories to the “Academics for peace” appeal had been sentenced in April 2018 to one year and three months in jail, for “support to a terrorist organization”, at the same time as Veli Polat.On appeal, the sentence was confirmed last March 4th.
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The carrying out of the sentence was not delayed for Füsun Üstel since she had not requested the adjournment upon sentencing and had not submitted a “declaration of penitence”. An appeal may be filed to the Court of Appeals. The application of the sentence imposed on Associate Professor Polat has been postponed.
On this same March 4th – in other words, more than three years after the publication of the appeal – Nüket Esen of Bosphorus University appeared for the first hearing of her case before the Penal Court. In her defence, Nüket Esen rejected the accusations and the Court postponed the next hearing to June 28th.
Yasemin Gülsüm Acar’s hearing was also postponed as requested by her lawyer. The next hearing will be on April 12th.
180 Academics still on trial
Füsun Üstel and Veli Polat are not the only academics dragged before the courts for “having demanded peace”…The 1 128 signatorees of the appeal launched on January 5 2016 have been insulted, intimidated, threatened, arrested… Hundreds of them have been fired following decrees applicable as law, promulgated under the state of emergency. These men and women, who represent Turkey’s grey matter are hounded, brought before the courts, and some of them have become de facto exiles abroad.
A brief recap
On March 10 2016 during a press conference, Esra Mungan, Muzaffer Kaya, Kıvanç Ersoy and Meral Camcı read a press release about the appeal for peace published on January 5th 2016 on behalf of a group of academics for peace in Istanbul, and mentioning new facts that had occurred since the first communication of this public declaration.
Three of the four academics who spoke at the press conference were arrested on March 15th 2016 for “terrorist propaganda” and the last of them, Meral Camci, who was abroad at the time was arrested on March 31 upon returning to Turkey. The four academics were released on April 22 2016 at their first hearing. The prosecutor had then modified the accusations to match crimes covered by article 301 of the Turkish penal code: “insulting Turkey, the Turkish nation or Turkish governmental institutions” and had requested from the ministry of Justice authorization to proceed with the trial by virtue of this new article.
Another indictment had been prepared in October 2017 affecting at least 148 academics who had signed the declaration. The academics were accused of “propaganda for terrorist organizations” by virtue of article 7/2 of the Turkish antiterrorist law (N° 3713) in an indictment prepared by prosecutor İsmet Bozkurt.
The hearings against the signatorees began on December 5th 2017. By April 4th 2018, 180 of them had been through a first hearing, 30 had been through their second hearing, and one academic had been heard for a third time. Five academics were sentenced to one year and three months in jail, and the sentences were suspended.
From the outset, support for the academics came from many sources.
Students reacted immediately…(article sendika.org, in Turkish), 2 000 jurists signed a declaration in support for the academics (text and signatorees, in Turkish), writers gave their support, publishing a text and signing “writers for Peace”, “Photographers for Peace” said “We wish to testify for Peace!“ (in Turkish). More than 50 publishing houses unanimously declared they would not be “accomplice to this crime” either… More than 400 film makers declared their solidarity. Feminists for peace called to the signing of their petition (in Turkish). And several progressive civil society organizations and platforms also joined “the hord of messy, ignorant and obscure intellectuals“, as Erdoğan called them in his criminalization of intellectuals.
Solidarity proved transnational, several appeals and petitions were launched in support for the academics. Their exiled colleagues also organized in the countries where they are sheltered and founded the “International Committee of Academics“.
The Conference of French University Presidents (CPU), informed of Füsun Üstel’s situation, has expressed its total disapproval of any condemnation for the simple expression of an opinion. In a press release titled “The CPU expresses solidarity for Turkish Academics charged for matters of opinion“, asking for the support of the entire University community in Europe in order to exert pressure on Turkish authorities to cease this type of persecution for matters of opinion. It also states its full solidarity with Füsun Üstel and urges that her sentence not be executed.
This part of the “purges” against opponents in the educational system is carried out while Universities are being taken in hand, and serves as a prelude to an exodus of youngsters who will refuse these repressive measures. The confusion maintained between the purges andcondemnations of academics, and the repression against the former ally in the Gulenist wing, must also be denounced. If both are victims of the regime, the first were fighting for peace and an open future for Turkey. Therein lies a major difference.
There is a great need for an open welcome on the part of European States, part of which has been realized. But care must be taken that the refugee’s files do not get mired in the labyrinth of procedures and that Chancelleries be constantly kept informed of this repression, which must cease.