Three Turkish academics get suspended jail terms for peace call

Three Turkish academics received suspended prison terms for signing a document calling for peace between Turkey and Kurdish militants fighting for autonomy.

The three -- Biriz Berksoy, İnci Özkan Kerestecioğlu and Canay Şahin – were sentenced by an Istanbul court to 15 months in jail each for engaging in propaganda for a terrorist organisation, news portal Bianet said.

Turkey has launched a crackdown on some 2,200 academics who signed the peace petition since January 2016, which stated “we will not be party to this crime”. It has put 468 on trial as of Feb. 5.

All of the 90 whose trials have been concluded so far were found guilty by the courts of supporting terrorism, Bianet said. The European Union has criticised the trials saying they contravene the academics’ right to freedom of expression.

Ten of the academics who were previously found guilty of the alleged crimes rejected the possibility of having their sentences suspended, Bianet said.

Turkey has fought a four-decade war against members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) at the cost of almost 40,000 lives, most of them Kurdish. The government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has renewed a crackdown on the group and its supporters after a brief period during which it held peace talks, including with imprisoned commander Abdullah Öcalan.