First academic acquitted after Turkey’s Constitutional Court ruling over peace petition

A Turkish court in the western city of İzmir ruled that an academic had not made propaganda for a terrorist organisation by signing a petition for peace, Turkish secularist newspaper Cumhuriyet reported on Thursday.

Some 2,200 academics signed a 2016 petition which criticised the heavy-handed tactics employed by the Turkish army against insurgents in predominantly Kurdish cities in the country, including long curfews and the use of heavy weaponry.

Under the two-year emergency rule declared following a coup attempt in 2016, hundreds of peace petitioners lost their jobs with no prospect of working again in Turkey due to the nature of their dismissal by decree. Many were also subject to travel bans and had their passports revoked.

As of January 30, 2019, 452 signatories had been tried over charges of terrorism propaganda for signing the petition. 

In response to an appeal by nine academics who were sentenced over the charges, Turkey’s Constitutional Court ruled on July 26 that the Turkish judiciary had violated academics’ right to freedom of expression by charging them with terror offences for signing the peace petition.

The ruling was expected to serve as a precedent for ongoing trials. This week, a court in Turkey’s western city of İzmir acquitted the academic Ahmet Kardam of terror charges, citing the Constitutional Court's ruling. Kardam is the first to be declared innocent after the decision of Turkey's highest legal body.

Kardam's lawyer Arif Ali Cangı said all courts that try academics should immediately acquit defendants facing the same charges, without waiting for the next court hearing, while prosecutors should not start any new legal action against academics under investigation.

"This is the requirement of the rule of law," he said.