Pro-gov’t media blasts Turkey’s Constitutional Court over peace academics ruling

Turkey’s pro-government media outlets are condemning Turkey’s Constitutional Court over its ruling on Friday that the Turkish judiciary had violated academics’ right to freedom of expression by charging them with terror offences for signing a petition for peace.

Pro-government Sabah newspaper said on Friday said the ruling paved the for terror propaganda in universities while Takvim newspaper focused on the head of the court, Zühtü Arslan, accusing him of effectively disregarding soldiers that died in the Turkish military’s decades-long war with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). 

The court’s decision was related to some 2,200 academics who 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. Turkey has fought a four-decade war against members of the PKK, at the cost of almost 40,000 lives, most of them Kurdish.

As of Jan. 30, 452 signatories had stood trial over charges of terrorism propaganda. Nine academics that were sentenced by Turkish courts for making propaganda of a terrorist organisation appealed to the Constitutional Court. 

The court ruled that basic rights of the academics were violated by 9 votes in favour of the appeal and 8 against.

The court’s head Arslan, who voted in favour of the appeal, had planned the “scandalous decision’’ in advance Takvim said, using as a platform Hürriyet newspaper, which published a full-page interview with Arslan days before the court’s ruling.

Sabah newspaper called the court’s decision a scandal, accusing it of whitewashing the academics who called the Turkish state “a murderer.”

“The Constitutional Court’s scandalous decision opened way to use to use terms like ‘murderer’, ‘terrorist’, and ‘slaughterer’ against the state and to insult senior state officials in universities and other platforms,” the daily said. 

The newspaper on Sunday published interviews with family members of soldiers who died in the war with the PKK. 

"We strongly condemn the Constitutional Court, which criticises the state’s war on terror and calls our state murderers. This is not something that can be forgiven," it quoted a brother of a soldier who was killed as saying.

A Haber TV said on Saturday that after the decision, all eyes were on Arslan, the head of the court, whose vote determined the outcome. The news channel listed  previous decisions and comments of Arslan.

Another pro-government daily, Star, also targeted Arslan and asked him to explain the decision to the family of a Turkish soldier who was killed in 2015 in the southeastern town of Şemdinli during military operations.

Türkiye newspaper published statements from the relatives of Turkish soldiers who had been killed in the conflict with the PKK, stressing that they would not forgive the court over the decision.

Some outlets also published the photos of Constitutional Court judges, sharing their votes over the appeal.

T-24 news site said five of the judges who ruled in favour of the appeal were appointed by former President Abdullah Gül. One of the judges was appointed by the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the remaining two were selected by the Turkish parliament.