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Court releases Turkish academics in terror case

April 23, 2016

The prosecutor has called for the four academics to be tried on charges of insulting the Turkish nation. They were charged with spreading "terrorist propaganda" after criticizing Ankara's crackdown on Kurdish rebels.

Demonstrators protest outside a Turkish courthouse
Image: Getty Images/AFP/O. Kose

A Turkish court on Friday released four academics pending trial for insulting Turkey. The four had been held in jail on charges of spreading "terrorist propaganda."

In March, police arrested Esra Mungan, Muzaffer Kaya, Kivanc Ersoy and Meral Camci after they held a press conference backing a declaration that criticized the Turkish government for its crackdown on Kurdish militants in southeastern Turkey.

"We are excited to announce the release of our colleagues," the Academics of Peace group, which represents the signatories to the declaration, said in a statement on its Facebook page. However, the group added that the academics are expected back in court in September.

The prosecutor said the academics should be tried under Article 301 of the Turkish penal code, which criminalizes "insulting Turkey, the Turkish nation or Turkish government institutions" and carries a maximum prison sentence of two years.

"You may find our petition ridiculous, but you can never say we were spreading terrorist propaganda. Acquit me," said Muzaffer Kaya, according to Dogan news agency.

Meanwhile, a closed-door trial also started for two journalists working for the Turkish daily "Cumhuriyet." The paper's editor-in-chief, Can Dundar, and Ankara correspondent Erdem Gul were in court on Friday on charges of espionage and revealing state secrets.

Dundar and Gul were charged for the publication of an article that alleged Turkish intelligence was shipping arms to Syrian rebels under the guise of humanitarian aid.

"Journalism can never be described as espionage," said opposition lawmaker Garo Paylan. "Journalism is about revealing misdeeds by the state and relaying this to the public."

Their case was adjourned until May 6.

Turkey has come under increased scrutiny for its crackdown on members of the press, with Reporters Without Borders ranking the country 151 out of 180 in its 2016 report on press freedom, citing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's "offensive" against the media and his critics.

ls/sms (Reuters, AP, AFP)

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