Özlem Beyarslan, an associate professor at Boğaziçi University, faces charges of distributing terrorist propaganda for participating in a ‘Peace Petition’ launched by the Academics for Peace Initiative.
Beyarslan and Veysel Ok, her lawyer and Co-Director of the Media and Law Studies Association, were present in İstanbul 14. High Criminal Court at 9:50am for the commencement of the hearing, which was then delayed until 10:45am.
Ok predicated his defense of Beyarslan on Turkey’s obligation to protect freedom of expression as articulated by the European Council Charter of Fundamental Rights. “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.”
Ok then requested that Beyarslan’s case be merged with that of other academics facing similar charges in İstanbul 13. High Criminal Court.
Beyarslan: Signing a petition falls within the scope of freedom of expression
Beyarslan then rose to give her statement of defense. “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 went on to note that “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.”
Beyarslan then answered a number of questions from the presiding judge surrounding the the nature of her participation, the transcript of which is as follows:
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.
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?
Ok then rose to respond to the judge’s inquiries. “I would like to clarify the issue of the concept of massacre. Tahir Elçi's application to the European Court of Human Rights and the Güçlü Konak decision says that states can commit massacres.” Ok also noted that use of the word “Kurdistan” does not constitute a crime. He then requested extra time to prepare detailed defense statements.
The court agreed to Ok’s request for extra time and adjourned the hearing until January 31 2019. The court also agreed to review the potential merger of case files.
Updated: December 3 2018