Turkish teacher jailed over call for peace in Kurdish conflict acquitted

A Turkish court has acquitted a Turkish teacher jailed over terror propaganda after pleading for peace on a popular Turkish television programme, independent news site Diken reported on Wednesday.

Ayşe Çelik received a 15-month prison sentence in December 2017 for conducting terrorist propaganda and entered prison with her six-month-old baby. The teacher was freed months later after her lawyers applied for a delay in sentencing before returning to prison with her daughter in April to serve her sentence.

Çelik’s acquittal follows a lengthy legal battle after she called in to the popular late night Beyaz Show at the height of Turkish security forces’ conflict with Kurdish insurgents in 2016, calling for an end to violence that had left cities in Turkey’s Kurdish-majority southeast under
24-hour curfews and resulted in dozens of civilian casualties.

The Constitutional Court in May accepted an appeal by Çelik’s lawyer on the grounds of rights violation.

Çelik, who has become a household name, thanked everyone for their support during her legal battle, Diken said.

“I see myself as being lucky. There are, unfortunately, 700 babies in prison in addition to countless children who have been separated from their [imprisoned] parents,‘’ Çelik said.

There are 669 children in Turkish jails, 64 percent of them under the age of three, according to the country’s Justice Ministry. 

Peace talks between the Turkish government and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) broke down in 2015, leading to the resumption of conflict in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast. The PKK, designated a terrorist organisation by Ankara, the United States and the EU, has led a 30 year armed struggle for Kurdish self-rule in the country.