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Dec 27 2018

Prosecutor halts investigation into letter criticising Turkey’s assault on Afrin

A Turkish prosecutor urged police this week to stop their investigation into 170 intellectuals and activists for their January letter criticising Turkey’s military operation in the northwestern Syrian province of Afrin, Duvar news site reported.

Turkey’s military launched Operation Olive Branch in January, with support from Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters, aiming to take Afrin from the majority-Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG). 

Ankara sees the PYD/YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has been fighting inside Turkey since 1984 and is designated as a terrorist organisation by the United States and the European Union. 

A group of prominent figures, including academics, journalists, artists, and human rights activists, sent a joint letter to Turkey’s parliament urging them to oppose the operation.  

“We know that the operation in Afrin, which poses no threat to Turkey and is a part of Syria, will bring further problems, destruction, and suffering to our region and country instead of peace and security, and will hurt the hearts of our Kurdish citizens,” the letter said. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called the signatories “traitors” and ordered a criminal investigation. Turkish forces seized control of Afrin in March. According to a United Nations report, indiscriminate shelling of the city killed dozens of civilians and forced more than 100,000 people to evacuate.

A Turkish prosecutor launched an investigation into the joint letter last month, ordering police to depose the signatories. But this week the prosecutor sent another order, calling for the police to end implementation of his previous order. 

Academics Ahmet İnsel, Baskın Oran, and Murat Belge, Turkey’s famous pollster Tarhan Erdem, Kurdish activist Nurcan Baysal, artists Genco Erkal, Gülriz Sururi, Halil Ergün, authors Burhan Sönmez and Oya Baydar, journalists Hasan Cemal and Zeynep Oral were among the 170 signatories that included people coming from different ideological backgrounds.