Court of Appeal Overturns Prison Sentence of Academic for Peace Sungur-Çakmak

Yazar / Referans: 
Evrim Kepenek, Bianet

The Court of Appeal has overturned the prison sentence of Prof. Dr. Sungur Çakmak, an Academic for Peace.

The court of appeal has overturned a prison sentence given to Prof. Dr. Nesrin Sungur-Çakmak, one of the academics who have been charged with "propagandizing for a terrorist organization" for having signed the declaration entitled "We will not be a party to this crime."

A heavy penal court sentenced her to 1 year and 3 months in prison and did not defer the announcement of the verdict.

The Constitutional Court ruled in July that the sentencing of Academics for Peace on the charge of "terror propaganda" violated their freedom of expression. The ongoing cases resulted in acquittal after the ruling.

However, the courts did not defer the announcement of the verdict for 40 academics who were given a prison sentence.

İstanbul Regional Court of Justice (court of appeal) today (January 3) overturned the prison sentence for Sungur-Çakmak.

'Academics should be acquitted'

Oya Meriç Eyüboğlu, an attorney of Sungur-Çakmak, told bianet that all the cases that are currently pending at the court of appeal should result in acquittal, citing the Constitutional Court decision.

Over 800 academics were sued after the declaration was published and all of them, without exception, were given a prison sentence, Eyüboğlu recalled. While the announcement of the verdict was deferred in most cases, it was not in some cases because either the defendant refused the deferment or the prison sentence was too long that it could not be deferred.

"After the decision of the General Assembly of the Constitutional Court, these cases pending at [the court of] appeal should result in acquittal. On this matter, we had talks with the penal chambers of the appeal court and repeatedly submitted petitions to them; even a single day extension of these trials, which should immediately end in acquittal, violates the right to a fair trial."

The abeyance of the case and the continuation of the threat of imprisonment on people is "unlawful" and the lack of immediate acquittals violates the right against self indiscrimination, she noted.

"On this occasion, we once again repeat that all cases should be concluded immediately, otherwise it is a violation of rights. This is the third case returned from the appeal.

"Instead of giving a verdict of acquittal, the district court of justice overturned the ruling sent the file to the court that gave the ruling. However, it could have handled it without sending it back, it has the authority," Eyüboğlu said, adding that the local courts cannot continue the trials once the Constitutional Court gave a ruling.

Sungur-Çakmak: Lives of academics fell apart

Sungur-Çakmak told bianet that they expected to be acquitted because of the Constitutional Court ruling.

"I have two other academic friends who are on trial in the same case as me. We expect a similar decision for them. Of course, these cases should never have been brought.

"We are retired people. For us, these cases were just tiredness, a labor of coming and going to the courthouse. But the lives of many of our young friends fell apart. We had colleagues who ended their lives. There were situations that were irreparable. I wish these cases had never been filed in the first place and this had not happened."

About the Trials of Academics

On January 10, 2016, 1,128 academics published a declaration entitled "We will not be party to this crime" on behalf of the Academics for Peace initiative.

With the participation of further academics, the number of academics who have signed the declaration has reached 2,212.

With the indictment issued by the Prosecutor İsmet Bozkurt, lawsuits were filed against the academics on charge of "propagandizing for a terrorist organization" as per the Article No. 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Law No. 3713.

As of September 9, 2019, 640 academics had stood trial since December 5, 2017, all the 204 academics whose cases were concluded were sentenced to prison. 146 of these academics were sentenced to 1 year and 3 months in prison; 8 academics to 1 year and 6 months in prison; 18 academics to 1 year, 10 months and 15 days in prison; 17 academics to 2 years and 3 months in prison; 7 academics to 2 years and 6 months in prison; 5 academics to 2 years and 1 month in prison; and one academic to 3 years in prison.

Non-deferred prison sentences for 36 people

Of these 204 people, the verdicts of conviction of 36 academics in total were not deferred; while the verdicts of 29 people were not deferred as their prison terms are over 2 years (as per the Article 286 of the Law on Criminal Courts), the verdicts of 7 academics were not deferred as they did not accept the deferment of the announcement of their verdicts.

With her 15-month prison sentence upheld by the court of appeal, Academic for Peace Prof. Dr. Füsun Üstel was arrested on May 8, 2019 to be released on July 22.

Constitutional Court said "violation of right"

The General Assembly of the Constitutional Court examined the individual applications of 10 Academics for Peace sentenced to prison on charge of "propagandizing for a terrorist organization" for having signed the peace declaration.

On July 26, 2019, the Court ruled that the penalization of Academics for Peace on charge of "terror propaganda" has violated their freedom of expression.

The Court decided that a copy of this judgement shall be sent to all local courts in order to eliminate this right's violation and advised for retrial. The court also ruled to pay each applicant 9 thousand TRY in reparations.


After the new judicial year opened on September 2, the first verdict of acquittal for an Academic for Peace in accordance with the Constitutional Court ruling was given by the İstanbul 30th Heavy Penal Court.

After the Constitutional Court ruled that the freedom of expression of Academics for Peace has been violated, joint and separate verdicts of acquittal have been given for academics at 21 courts in total. These courts are as follows:

İstanbul: 32nd Heavy Penal Court (ACM), 30th ACM, 26th ACM, 36th ACM, 22nd ACM, 28th ACM, 25th ACM, 34th ACM, 37th ACM, 29th ACM, 33rd ACM, 23rd ACM, 24th ACM, 13th ACM, 14th ACM

Diyarbakır: 11th Heavy Penal Court

Ankara: 18th Heavy Penal Court, 22nd ACM

Kocaeli: 5th Heavy Penal Court

Düzce: Düzce Heavy Penal Court

Bursa: 9th Heavy Penal Court

Constitutional Court ruling and its consequences

The ruling of the Constitutional Court stipulates that the local courts shall hold re-trials and give verdicts of acquittal in ongoing cases and for finalized sentences and the courts of appeal shall reverse the judgements in question.

The State of Emergency Commission, which has not yet given its decision regarding the applications of discharged academics, shall also take the Constitutional Court ruling into account. However, it can still give contrary rulings.

In the event that the Commission gives a decision against the academics, they will have the right to appeal to the Council of State. Though the Constitutional Court ruling is binding for the Council of State, any possible failure to withdraw the decisions of discharge will also be examined by the Constitutional Court.

You can reach all news on Trials of Academics here

You can reach the statements of Academics for Peace in English here