Turkish scholars have been subject to heavy pressures and constraints since the declaration of the petition “We’ll not be a part of this crime” launched by the Academicians for Peace initiative in mid-January. In Mersin, a middle-sized city on the Mediterranean Coast, this climate of pressure has been experienced in an accentuated manner as the twenty-one petitioners of the city’s University have since then faced very serious threats and sanctions.
In contradiction to all traditional practices and even to legislations, the university administration has cancelled the contracts of three assistant professors, two lecturers and one research assistant since last January.
And now, a group of these scholars in Mersin are threatened by serious juridical accusations that were launched obviously in relation with the petition. These lawsuits that may end up with prison sentences are as follows:
1. The first case was launched against assistant professors Hakan Mertcan, Mustafa Şener and Selim Çakmaklı for the charge of “insult of the president” due to their Facebook messages.
2. Again due to their social media messages, they are sued for “propaganda of terrorist organisation” as well as “provocation of the people for hatred and hostility”. The hearing of this second case in which research assistant Esin Gülsen is also accused will be held on the July 12th, 2016 in Mersin.
3. In addition to these two cases, the public prosecution office of Mersin carries out an investigation against Mertcan, Gülsen and Çakmaklı for “insult of institutions and organs of the Turkish state” through Facebook messages. These academicians thus risk a third lawsuit.
4. Apart from Facebook messages, two of the petitioners, Mustafa Şener and Atilla Güney are sued for violation of the law on meetings and demonstrations due to a public statement that they participated. The hearing of this case will take place on the July 13th, 2016.
5. Last but not the least, Prof. Atilla Güney is sued for ungrounded charges related to his presidency of a charity organisation supported by the Municipality of Akdeniz governed by the pro-Kurdish HDP.
In short, this group of petitioners in Mersin are threatened by prison sentences up to 14,5 years for just using their elementary rights of freedom of opinion and expression. If they are also sued for “insult of institutions and organs of the Turkish state”, this prison risk may amount up to 21,5 years.
The gravity and the urgency of the situation in Mersin is obvious. Therefore, we urge for the support and the concern of the democratic international community to the scholars at both professional and juridical risks in Mersin. For this purpose, we invite all those who can, to attend to the hearings on July 12th and 13th in Mersin.
For those who won’t manage to be physically with us on these days, we ask them to send us short videos of support recorded by your phone, tablet or webcam (max. ten seconds during which we hear your name, title, institution and words of support to our colleagues) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We shall organise a press meeting to share your messages to demonstrate the support of the nternational community to our colleagues.