The First Chamber of the Constitutional Court met to review the individual applications of ten “Academics for Peace” signatories who have been convicted for “making terrorist propaganda” charges today. Professor Füsun Üstel, who has been behind bars for 55 days, is among the ten academics whose applications are being reviewed. As a result of today’s meeting, the chamber decided to refer the file over to the Court’s General Secretariat for a judgement. If the Secretariat does not review the file before the judicial recess starting on July 20th, the academics will have to wait until September.
The First Chamber of the Constitutional Court initially reviewed the file on May 29th and decided to postpone the meeting, citing that the Ministry of Justice’s comments had not been received. The Ministry’s arguments and comments on the case were submitted since then and the First Chamber met to review the academics’ applications once again today. The file consists of 10 academics’ applications, including Professor Füsun Üstel’s.
The question of “whether the freedom of expression of the applicants having signed the petition had or had not been violated by their conviction” was considered in relation to the application file numbered 2018/17635. The First Chamber observed that the decision would constitute a precedent for academics who are indicted for similar charges and hence that all of its members should agree with the decision.The Chamber thus arrived to the unanimous decision of referral of the file to the General Secretariat.
It is unknown when the General Secretariat of the Constitutional Court will review the case. Authority in this matter belongs to the President of Turkey’s top court, Zühtü Arslan. If the Academics for Peace file is not included in the Secretariat’s agenda before July 20th, the judicial recess will intervene. This will cause the academics’ expectation of justice to be delayed as well.
Füsun Üstel is still behind bars
As a result of the investigations launched against the Academics for Peace, criminal lawsuits were filed against 724 academics. The trials have been ongoing since December 5th, 2017. As of July 4th, 203 academics have been sentenced to prison. Out of these 203, 36 academics’ sentences were neither suspended nor deferred. Among those 36 is Professor Füsun Üstel who entered prison on May 7th after her sentence of 1 year and 3 months was upheld.
Academics for Peace initiative published their petition titled “We will not be a party of this crime” with the public on 10 January 2016. The academics were criticizing human rights violations in Turkey’s southeastern region; primarily curfews and military operations in Sur, Cizre, and Silopi. Initially 1128 academics were signatories but the number quickly increased to 2218. President Erdoğan criticized the petition harshly, suggesting the academics to “go dig trenches, get armed, and take it up to the mountains.”