Lyon-1 University lecturer Tuna Altınel is released during the first hearing of his trial, Altınel was behind bars for the past 81 days
Balıkesir – Peace petition signatory Associate Professor Tuna Altınel, who has been imprisoned for the past 81 days, appeared before court for the first time today. First hearing of the trial where Altınel is accused of “making terrorist propaganda” was held at Balıkesir 2nd High Criminal Court. Many academics, activists, and journalists monitored the hearing in solidarity with Altınel.
Tuna Altınel was a signatory of the petition titled “We will not be a party to this crime,” which was published in January 2016. However, Altınel was accused of “terrorist propaganda” due to another peaceful act. Altınel was arrested on 11 May 2019 for propaganda charges for attending and assisting a conference held in France on 21 February 2019. Many academics and activists came together in front of the Balıkesir Courthouse and organized a press meeting prior to the hearing. Lütfiye Bozdağ read the press statement on Academics for Peace initiative’s behalf and said, “Tuna Altınal has been imprisoned for 81 days without any evidence. As Tuna’s friends, we demand his immediate release.”
Altınel: ‘I demand freedom’
Although hundreds of academics, human rights defenders, students, and journalists have met in front of the Balıkesir Courthouse to express their support, only 70 audience members were allowed in the courtroom due to limited space. Altınel and his defense lawyers were present in the courtroom as well. Altınel noted that his defense statement will be focused on his demand for immediate release and went on:
“I am accused of making terrorist propaganda for attending an event organized by Lyon Rhône-Alpes Kurdish Friendship Association on 21 February 2019, titled ‘Cizre: The Story of a Massacre.’ I am a member of this association and its name, activities and all other relevant information are public. You can inquire about the operations of this association very easily. It is not possible for such an association to have ties with a terrorist organization. Moreover, the indictment cannot present any evidence on how this association has links to PKK/KCK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party/Kurdistan Communities Union). My passport was seized without any legitimate justification on 12 April 2019, while I entered Turkey and I travel to Turkey quite often. I was arrested in front of the Governorship of Balıkesir Governor’s and taken to the Anti-Terror Branch. The day after my arrest, the Governorship of Balıkesir issued a statement about me and referred to me as ‘the academic that makes terrorist propaganda,’ disregarding the presumption of innocence. Esteemed judges, I am not a member of any terrorist organization. I assisted the organization of a legal event that was hosted by a legal association. Perhaps this plot against me is an attempt to intimidate others. I request your court to not pay any attention to the uproar created about me, not be a tool for this injustice and immediately rule for my release. I demand freedom.”
Altınel’s defense lawyer Oya Meriç Eyüboğlu stated: “My client’s colleagues and organizations from all around the world are asking why Tuna Altınel is imprisoned and add their demand for his immediate release at the end of their statements. He has been deprived of his freedom for the past 81 days for taking part in a conference organized by a legal association. I want to draw your attention to this: two days after the Governorship of Balıkesir issued their statement, the same phrases appeared in Yeni Akit newspaper. Very similar passages appeared in the indictment as well. We demand immediate acquittal.”
The public prosecutor requested that Altınel shall be released with judicial control measures considering the time he spent under arrest and that the case-file should be sent to the 5th Chamber of the Court of Cassation. In response to the prosecutor’s demands, Altınel’s lawyers noted that the prosecutor is wrong and that there is no need to send the file over to the Court of Cassation. The lawyers added that Altınel should be released without judicial control measures and repeated their demand for acquittal.
Following a 15 minute break for deliberations, the court announced its interim decision in the trial and ruled for Tuna Altınel’s release without any judicial control measures. The court also decided that Altınel shall be exempted from the hearings from now on and adjourned the trial until 19 November 2019.
Although the court did not issue any judicial control measures for Altınel, his passport is still seized as of today.