Turkish academics investigated on same charges as jailed PKK leader

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Turkish prosecutors in İzmir and Ankara have been investigating academics who signed a petition denouncing military operations in the southeast on charges based on the most controversial articles of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK).

In İzmir, the investigation into 37 academics is based on Article 302 which concerns “disturbing the unity of the state and integrity of the country,” while in majority of other provinces, the investigation is based on Article 301.

Up until 2008, the infamous Article 301 criminalized “denigrating Turkishness.” Reforms replaced “denigrating Turkishness” with “denigration of the Turkish nation, the state of the Republic of Turkey, the Turkish Parliament, the government of the Republic of Turkey and the legal institutions of the state,” and added the additional requirement of an authorization by the justice minister before prosecutors could initiate proceedings.

In a 2006 court decision, which the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) strongly condemned as a violation of free speech, the Supreme Court of Appeals, Turkey’s highest court, upheld the conviction of Hrant Dink, a Turkish-Armenian journalist, for “insulting Turkishness” under the same article.

Dink, who was the editor-in-chief of the weekly Agos, was shot dead outside its office building in Istanbul’s Şişli district on Jan. 19, 2007, by 17-year-old Ogün Samast.

The Ankara Chief Prosecutor’s Office, however, has not requested the Justice Ministry’s authorization for the ongoing investigation against the academics, officials from the ministry said.

In a majority of investigations launched in different provinces of the country, the prosecutors have based their arguments on Article 301 and accused the signatories of “making propaganda for a terrorist organization.”

As for Article 302, the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah Öcalan, was tried and convicted under this article and sentenced to life-long-imprisonment.

“Creating a crime like this out of this declaration is openly against the principle of crime and lawfulness,” Arif Ali Cıngı, a lawyer for the academics, told Hürriyet on Jan. 21, referring to particularly the charges based on Article 302, leveled by the İzmir Chief Prosecutor’s Office. “Conducting an investigation on such a charge would itself constitute a violation of freedom of expression. The treatment imposed on academics is also a violation of the prohibition of inhumane treatment,” Cıngı added.

While citing the charges against 37 academics, the İzmir Chief Prosecutor’s Office decided that the issue was not covered in its jurisdiction authority in regards to venue and sent the file to the Istanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office.

The lawyer also said the prosecutor who sent the file had posted messages on his social media account targeting the academics. “Let this come to those treacherous whores who say that the state is committing a massacre,” said the prosecutor on his Facebook account, Cıngı alleged.

“This is a fatal situation which I cannot accept as a legist,” he added.

Prosecutors have launched a major investigation into more than 1,200 academics who signed a petition denouncing military operations in the southeast, with at least 18 being detained so far. The EU and the United States have both denounced the probes in unusually strong statements.

All those detained in the probe last week have since been released but they still face investigation and an eventual trial.

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