Peace petition signatory Tuna Altınel released from prison

Mathematician Tuna Altınel was released from prison during the first hearing of his trial on charges of membership to a terrorist organisation, opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet reported on Tuesday.

Altınel, who was arrested in May, is one of the over 2,000 academics who signed a petition in 2016 urging the Turkish state to lift a series of curfews imposed in some 30 Kurdish-majority districts and towns in the fall and winter of 2015 after a peace process with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) broke down. The curfews continued for weeks, even months in some instances, and resulted in several deaths as well as the displacement of at least 300,000 people.

Altınel’s membership to ALKRA (Lyone and Rhone-Alpes Kurdish Friendship Association), attendance of events held by Kurdish NGOs in France and translation work for former pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) MP Faysal Sarıyıldız were cited as evidence of his membership to the PKK.

During his defence in the hearing, the lecturer at France’s Lyon 1 University said an intelligence report on him claimed that the ALKRA was working with the PKK, which is an unsubstantiated claim.

“The Foreign Ministry and the Lyon Consulate have spied on me for being a citizen of Turkey who attended an event that touches upon delicate matters,” Altınel said.

Altınel referred to a ruling by Turkey’s Constitutional Court on Friday that the country’s judiciary had violated academics’ right to freedom of expression by charging them with terror offences for signing a petition for peace.

“To become an open, tolerant and democratic society, the only option is to fight to bring to light and face the most disturbing truths. However, my efforts to seek the truth, triggered a vile plot against me, let alone receive support” the academic said.

A group of opposition MPs, academics and activists were outside the court to protest Altınel’s arrest. Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmakers Sezgin Tanrıkulu and Ali Şeker, as well as HDP lawmakers Züleyha Gülüm and Gülistan Kılıç Koçyiğit were in attendance during the trial.

The court ruled for Altınel’s release without parole and the academic is not required to attend future hearings in person.

Sezgin Tanrıkulu posted a video of Altınel's release on Twitter.