Academic Özlem Beyarslan is sentenced to 1 year and 3 months in prison

26 February 2019
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The court handed down a 1 year and 3 months prison sentence during the final hearing of the trial where Academics for Peace signatory Özlem Beyarslan has been tried on “terrorist propaganda” charges, the announcement of the verdict is postponed

İstanbul - Final hearing of the trial where Boğaziçi University’s Dr. Özlem Beyarslan is tried on propaganda charges for signing the Academics for Peace petition was held at İstanbul 14th High Criminal Court today. Beyarslan is represented by MLSA’s Legal Unit. Although the hearing was expected to start at 11:45, due to delays in the previous cases, the hearing began at 14:00.

“There isn't one word that praises a terror organization in the petition”

Özlem Beyarslan presented a statement in response to the prosecutor’s opinion as to the accusations, which was presented in the previous hearing. Beyarslan started her statement by noting that there are things she needs to mention and clarify following the rejection of the request to add Turkish Penal Code’s Article 301 to the accusations and the re-submission of the prosecutor’s opinion. Beyarslan said, “I saw the petition online and decided to sign it, hoping that it would help in ameliorating our nation’s problems. Contrary to the indictment, there isn't one word that praises a terror organization in the petition. The claim that I signed this petition due to an order from a terrorist organization is not just wrong but also far from rationality, I deny this accusation.”

Beyarslan ended her remarks with the following words: “I believe that reminding the conditions for living together as a community to the authorities is my moral duty. I demand my acquittal.”

“Beyarslan faces trial for refusing to obey the government’s discourse”

Following Beyarslan’s statement, lawyer Veysel Ok took the floor and presented the defense counsel’s statement: “My client’s worldview is on trial here. She faces trial for refusing to obey the government’s discourse and demanding peace. However, which prosecutor or judge can question what an academic writes, says or decides to sign? There were those who questioned this before but our collective memory doesn’t remember them as good jurists.”

“This  text that we call the opinion has been strengthened with unlawful evidence. The concerned opinion serves to limit freedom of speech and eliminate the visibility of citizens’ objections and demands for peace while criminalizing and terrorizing those who publicly vocalize such demands and criticism.”

Ok presented several examples from similar cases from abroad and continued his remarks: “The terror definition at hand is founded on extremely wide, vague, and abstract concepts, and this clearly violates the principle of clarity. International legislation interprets the concept of terror in a more clear and narrow fashion. However, our country keeps the definition of terror extremely wide while freedom of speech’s scope is kept at a minimum. We believe that accusations stated in the indictment cannot be accepted as elements of crime pursuant to international conventions and we demand our client’s acquittal.”

The audience could not enter the courtroom to hear the verdict

While the panel of judges gave a short break for their deliberation, they also ended the public hearing. Members of the audience, which included fellow academics, Beyarslan’s relatives, and members of the press, were told that they could not re-enter the courtroom to hear the verdict per the presiding judge’s request. Following a short argument with the security officer, only Beyarslan and her defense lawyers were taken into the courtroom.

The court sentenced academic Özlem Beyarslan to 1 year and 3 months in prison. The court also decided to postpone the announcement of the verdict and ruled a 5-year supervision period for Beyarslan.