Turkey detains 12 academics for signing ‘peace declaration’

Carnations left at the site of the IS bombing. Picture: AP
Carnations left at the site of the IS bombing. Picture: AP
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Turkish police have detained 12 people who were among more than 1,000 academics who signed a declaration denouncing military operations against Kurdish rebels in the country’s south-east, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

The move deepens concerns about freedom of expression under president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s rule.

The 12 are lecturers at Kocaeli University in north-western Turkey, Anadolu reported. Police were yesterday still processing the paperwork for nine other academics at the university who also face arrest.

Prosecutors on Thursday launched an investigation into the academics over possible charges of insulting the state and engaging in “terrorist propaganda” on behalf of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.

The move came after Mr Erdogan severely criticised the signatories, including linguist Noam Chomsky, and called on the judiciary to act against the “treachery”.

In the declaration, more than 1,000 academics from Turkey and abroad called on the country to halt “massacres” and said the signatories refused to be “a party to the crime”.

It was in reference to military operations against Kurdish militants in neighbourhoods and towns in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish south-east where the government has imposed extended curfews. Those militants, who are linked to the PKK, have mounted barricades, dug trenches and set up explosives to keep authorities away. The operations have resulted in more than 100 civilian casualties and displaced thousands, human rights groups said.

The academics also called for the resumption of peace efforts with the rebels.

Mr Erdogan said the academicians’ declaration was biased against the state, used the same language used by “terrorists” and did not speak out against the rebel violence.

The PKK, considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey and its western allies, has waged a more than 30-year separatist battle in south-eastern Turkey. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people.

The Dogan news agency reported on Thursday that Duzce University in northwestern Turkey fired a sociology lecturer for signing the declaration.

On the same day a car bomb which the authorities said was planted by the rebels detonated outside a police headquarters in Cinar district. Six people were killed. The government has imposed a series of curfews in the mainly Kurdish south-east while militants have erected barricades, dug trenches and used explosives to keep the authorities away.