Hearing of 'peace academic' Özlem Beyarslan is adjourned until January

26 September 2018

Hearing of Boğaziçi University associate professor Özlem Beyarslan in which she is accused of 'terrorist propaganda' based on her participation in the 'Peace petition' launched by Academics for Peace Initiative was held at İstanbul 14. High Criminal Court.

Beyarslan and her lawyer Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA) Coordinator Veysel Ok were present in the courtroom. The hearing was planned to start at 09:50, however, it was delayed until 10:45. Lawyer Veysel Ok took the floor and made some requests before his client's statement.

Ok made the definition of freedom of expression as it is defined in the European Council Charter of Fundamental Rights. He presented some examples from the decisions of the Supreme Court and European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and added: “We request immediate acquittal. Turkey has recognized the ECtHR as a supreme court 30 years ago. However, it has violated its decisions more than any country since then. This court is bound by Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which protects individuals' right to freedom of expression. If your court decides contrariwise, it will violate the decision of the convention, which you are bound by.”

Beyarslan: Signing a petition falls within the scope of freedom of expression

Özlem Beyarslan submitted her defense statement after Ok's request to merge her case with other academics' cases which are tried at İstanbul 13. High Criminal Court. Beyarslan was asked what her occupation was when she signed the petition. She answered: “I am an associate at Boğaziçi University Mathematics Department. I was deeply moved by the human rights violations in the South-eastern part of Turkey since the summer of 2015. I followed my conscience and signed the peace petition. It was an exercise of my right to freedom of expression which is protected under the constitution.”

She added: “It is very clear that there is no crime here. I am not associated with any terrorist organization. It is absurd to claim that I signed the petition with someone else's instruction. I request my acquittal.”

Presiding judge asked the following questions to Beyarslan:

Judge (J): What does “intended and planned” mean?

Özlem Beyarslan (ÖB): I approved those words because I thought that the state could intervene through peaceful methods.

J: You have expressed that the state has committed a massacre?

ÖB: The word massacre fits in the context of the military actions taken in the South-eastern part of Turkey. I don't think it is possible to express that with another word.

J: What do you think about the word Kurdistan that is involved in the English translation of the text?

ÖB: I am unaware of the translation. I signed the Turkish version.

J: Do you have any comments on whether PKK is a terrorist organization or not?

ÖB: I signed the petition for the civilians, who were unable to send their children to school.

Lawyer Veysel Ok: I would like to remind you there were reports by various civil society organizations regarding the events that took place in the region.

MB: Why didn't you address your call to PKK?

ÖB: The state must be the one to answer us. Why should we expect a solution from an organization?

Lawyer Ok took the floor after Beyarslan's conversation with the presiding judge and stated: “I would like to clarify the issue of the concept of massacre. Tahir Elçi's application to the ECtHR, the Güçlü Konak decision says that states can commit massacres.” Ok also remarked that the word “Kurdistan” does not constitute a crime either. He then requested extra time to prepare detailed defense statements.

Court gave the defense extra time and decided to review the requests of TCK 301 and merging of case files after the written statements are taken. Next hearing will be held on 31 January 2019.