Turkish judges unlikely to obey court decision protecting freedom of expression - columnist

Turkey’s local courts could disregard a ruling by the country’s highest legal body that said the judiciary had violated academics’ right to freedom of expression by charging them with terror offences for signing a peace petition, columnist Abdülkadir Selvi said on Wednesday in the pro-government Hürriyet newspaper.

The Constitutional Court’s decision was related to some 2,200 academics who signed a 2016 petition criticizing the heavy-handed tactics employed by the Turkish army against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in predominantly Kurdish cities, including long curfews and the use of heavy weaponry.

Several of the academics have been convicted and sentenced to up to three years in jail. Hundreds of the signatories of the peace petition have been dismissed or forced to resign from their jobs at both public and private universities in Turkey.

Following the court’s ruling, legal experts said that local courts must drop charges against the academics.

“I am not sure that the local courts will implement the Constitutional Court’s ruling on rights violations. In fact, what I perceive indicates that the local court will not implement the Constitutional Court’s ruling,” said Selvi, a journalist known for his close ties to the government.

Selvi said the Istanbul 32nd Heavy Criminal Court had paid special attention to the claims that the petition had been prepared upon the instructions of one PKK leader when it had decided on the sentences.

The journalist said the petition had been shared with the public on January 16, 2016, after Beşe Hozat, a senior official of the PKK, called on democratic forces to start an insurgency in an interview published in the pro-Kurdish Fırat news agency on December 22, 2015.

Selvi said the Constitutional Court had been right to look for a causal relation between Hozat’s call and the petition, but had been naive in its approach to the issue.