Turkish academic receives jail sentence for signing peace petition

A Turkish court sentenced an academic to 15 months in jail after finding her guilty of terrorist propaganda for signing a petition in 2016 calling for a peaceful end to the conflict with Kurdish militants, secular Cumhuriyet daily reported.

Professor Büşra Ersanlı was one of more than 2,000 signatories of a petition to the government by a group called Academics for Peace, the newspaper said. She is one of hundreds of academics facing prosecution for signing the petition.

The petitioners criticised the Turkish Armed Forces’ campaign against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) fighters in the mainly Kurdish southeast of the country, particularly what they said were heavy-handed tactics in cities, including the use of heavy weaponry, and called for an end to state violence against Kurdish citizens.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan responded by denouncing the signatories and said they were equal to terrorists.

A two-and-a-half year ceasefire between the state and the PKK, negotiated by Erdoğan’s government, broke down in July 2015 after his party failed to win a majority in general elections. A repeat election in November the same year, in which security became a major issue, saw Erdoğan’s party secure a majority in parliament.

Thousands have been killed in the conflict since then.