Turkish court acquits academic over peace petition

Some 200 academics in Turkey have been convicted of "terrorist propaganda" and links to Kurdish militants for signing a peace petition in 2016.

ISTANBUL - A Turkish court acquitted an academic on Friday who faced terrorism charges for signing a peace petition, setting a potential precedent for hundreds of others facing similar charges.

"Our teacher was acquitted. This is the first acquittal decision in our hearings," said the Academics for Peace twitter account.

The independent Bianet news site named him as Ozlem Sendeniz of Igdir University, one of 2,000 academics who signed a petition in 2016 criticising a military crackdown in the Kurdish-dominated southeast.

Some 200 signatories in Turkey have been convicted of "terrorist propaganda" over the petition and sentenced to between 15 months and three years in prison, according to Bianet.

Hundreds more are still facing trial.

But the prosecutor at the Istanbul court called for the charges against Sendeniz to be dropped, Bianet reported, based on a ruling by Turkey's constitutional court in July.

The constitutional court had been hearing an appeal by nine of those convicted over the petition, and narrowly agreed that their right to free expression had been violated.

It ordered retrials for the defendants and compensation of 9,000 lira (1,415 euros) and said a copy of the judgement would be sent to all lower courts to prevent further violations.

The peace petition followed the collapse of a two-year ceasefire with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged a bloody insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984.

Fighting then intensified in the southeast and Turkish authorities also imposed months-long curfews in many areas as part of their anti-PKK operations.

Ankara and its Western allies blacklist the PKK as a terrorist group.

The petition was also signed by dozens of foreign luminaries and intellectuals, among them American linguist Noam Chomsky and the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek.