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”.

universitaires cpuThe 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.

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