Four Turkish academics released pending terrorism propaganda trial

Four academics who organized a petition calling for peace in Turkey's conflict-hit south-east are to be released from pre-trial detention, a court ruled Friday, as they face charges of spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization.

The case was adjourned until September, broadcaster CNN Turk reported. If found guilty, the four - Esra Mungan, Muzaffer Kaya, Kivanc Ersoy and Meral Camci - face up to seven and a half years in jail.

Amnesty International has called for the case to be thrown out, saying the charges were "baseless," and for the four from the Academics for Peace group to be released immediately from pre-trial detention.

"Nothing they have said or done in their appeals for peace can justify arbitrary detention," said Andrew Gardner, the rights group's Turkey researcher, calling this a "sham trial."

As the war in Turkey's mostly Kurdish south-east heated up, the academics helped organize a petition, signed by more than 1,100 educators and intellectuals, calling for peace between militants and the state. Later, hundreds more also signed the petition.

Some of those who signed have been fired from their jobs or faced other forms of harassment.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly been sharply critical of the academics. The group also includes foreign intellectuals, including Noam Chomsky and Slavoj Zizek.

Many hundreds of people have died since a ceasefire between the state and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) collapsed in July after peace talks stalled.

Rights group believe at least 200 civilians were killed and estimates say 500,000 people have been displaced from their homes. There have also been two car bombings in Ankara, killing about 65 people.

Many Kurds in Turkey have long complained of systemic discrimination, while the state lists the PKK as a terrorist organization.

Meanwhile, two journalists from Cumhuriyet newspaper - Can Dundar and Erdem Gul - were back on trial Friday, accused of trying to overthrow the government. They published a report last year on alleged shipments of weapons to rebels in Syria.

Human rights and press freedom groups have called for the pair to be freed, saying their reporting was in the public interest.

Last update: Fri, 22/04/2016 - 19:54

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