US researchers urge Turkish judges to protect freedom of expression

More than 20 American academic groups, including the Middle East Studies Association of North America, issued a letter yesterday calling on Turkey's Supreme Court judges to demonstrate their commitment to the rule of law and to protect freedom of expression in their verdicts this week for scientists and academics who had signed a petition calling for peace in Turkey.

About 2200 Turkish academicians signed a petition in 2016 criticizing the heavy tactics of the Turkish army in Kurdish northern Kurdistan where a Kurdish majority lives. As of January, more than 450 widely known peace activists had been tried for "terrorist propaganda."

On Monday, retired academician Fusen Ostel was released and his release followed a decision by the Turkish Constitutional Court in April to review the appeals of 10 academicians, including Ostel.

"We urge Turkey to show commitment to the rule of law and international agreements it signed, which protect freedom of expression, assembly and academic freedom, while taking into consideration the signatories of the peace proposal," said the letter, signed by groups representing thousands of American academics and published by the North American Studies Association on its official website.

Last week, the first Turkish-American academician accused in the peace petition case, at the University of California, Davis Paki Tizjan, was tried in Istanbul.

"What keeps the declaration of peace in the news is not the announcement but the reaction in Turkey." Tizjan said in a statement before the court.


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