Statement as to the Accusations of Academic Ayşe Berkman

Yazar / Referans: 

"Though the judges and prosecutors who found more than 200 academics guilty and penalized them and jurists in the Constitutional Court acted according to the same constitution and penal codes, why were their verdicts spread over such a large spectrum?"

Prof. Dr. Ayşe Berkman, who has been working at the Department of Mathematics of Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University (MSGSÜ), was one of the academics who were charged with "propagandizing for a terrorist organization" for having signed the declaration entitled "We will not be a party to this crime" prepared by the Academics for Peace.

In her sixth and final hearing on September 12, 2019, Ayşe Berkman was acquitted of the offense charged in the wake of a verdict of right violation given by the Constiutional Court on July 26, 2019.

We are publishing the statement as to the accusations, or the last words of Berkman, which she presented at her final hearing that was held at the İstanbul 36th Heavy Penal Court on September 12, 2019.

(Click here to read statements of Academics for Peace published in English)


Your honors,

During my first hearing at your court, on October 31, 2018, my lawyer pointed out that the peace declaration I signed should be viewed as freedom of speech; she presented supporting cases, from the EHRC (European Human Rights Court); and as a result, she asked for my immediate acquittal.

However, you did not acquit me that day, and in my second hearing, on January 10, 2019, right after my statement, the prosecutor demanded that I should be punished for terrorism propaganda. Then the hearings continued, and today we have reached the sixth one.

On July 26, 2019, upon the application of some peace academics who had been found guilty, the Constitutional Court decided, "their right to freedom of speech, which is protected by item 26 of the constitution, was violated"; and hence, the validity of our demand in the first hearing was approved by the Constitutional Court, which is the highest constitutional body in our country.

Since I am the accused in this court, I know that I am not entitled to direct questions at you; however, I should like to review the events first and then express a wish.

As far as I know, the Academics for Peace case is the first in Turkey where people are being tried in different courts under the same indictment. In the first hearings, many lawyers pointed out that this is a violation of right to a fair trial; but the cases were not joined. However, as the cases went on, we saw that our lawyers had been right. In the 18 different courts in Istanbul, different verdicts came for the same indictment.

While most courts wanted to penalize us through 7/2 of the Turkish Penal Code (terror propaganda), some courts preferred 314/2 (helping a terrorist organization without being a member), and some other courts picked item 301 (insulting Turkishness) and asked permission for a trial under this item.

For more than 800 academics on trial, three different items were chosen, even though their indictments were identical, word for word. The chosen items did not differ from accused to accused, but they differed from court to court. We even observed that after the head judge of a court had changed, the chosen item also changed.

Sometimes despite the fact that the chosen items were the same, the verdicts were very different. Before the Constitutional Court's decision, the verdicts varied between 15 months of imprisonment to 36 months. We were never able to understand the reason for these differences.

Your honors,

Even though I know that I am not entitled to direct questions to you and receive answers, I should like to list some questions here, whose answers I really should like to know.

Why did the courts accept this indictment, which contains no evidence, but only personal views and logical mistakes, written by a prosecutor who was suspended from office for bargaining for money with Gulen's followers in March 2019?

Were not these 800 academics evaluated according to the same legal principles? If so, why were they tried under different items of the Turkish Penal Code? Why were they given different punishments?

Even though the judges and prosecutors who found more than 200 academics guilty and penalized them, and the jurists in the General Assembly of the Constitutional Court, acted according to the same constitution and same penal codes, why were their verdicts spread over such a large spectrum, in which one end is 3 years of imprisonment, and the other end is acquittal?

There are more than 800 academics who are or were on trial as Academics for Peace, more than 2000 hearings have taken place. Let's try to imagine the amount of time and effort spent by the Peace Academics and their lawyers just to be present at these hearings; the time spent by our colleagues and students who came to the hearings for support; the effort and work we spent to prepare our statements; the time spent by you to prepare the paperwork and to hear our statements. It is clear that a huge amount of time and effort were spent for this case. My last question is, in the light of the Constitutional Court's decision, whether it was worthwhile or not.

In my opinion, we, as citizens of this country, but especially as Peace Academics, should demand that an explanation be given to the public on why these contradictions took place. However, maybe you judges, prosecutors, and jurists, will act faster than we do, evaluate the events, and share with the public why these contradictions occured and what should be done so that they will not be repeated.

Before I finish, I would like to emphasize the three rights which are accepted as fundamental human rights worldwide: the right to live in peace, the right to freedom of thought and speech, and the right to a fair trial. These rights are under the protection of the constitution of our country, and guaranteeing them is the state's responsibility. In recognition of these rights, my last words are peace, freedom and justice. (AB/SD)

* This translation has been provided by Prof. Ayşe Berkman herself.