Trial of Turkish Academics Who Signed Peace Petition Leading to Jail Time and Deferred Sentences

Yazar / Referans: 
Committee of Concerned Scientists

The first group of Turkish Academics who received indictments have been brought before the courts recently. 700 (of 1,128) have been questioned by police, 542 have been indicted and are in some phase of the trial process. 59 have been sentenced to 15 months, 3 have been sentenced to 18 months, one to 27 months and one to 30 months. All had their sentences deferred except for those refusing to agree to the postponement of the announcement of the verdict, and those whose sentences exceeded two years. To date, eight did not receive deferred sentences and will begin the appeals process. The eight who are facing jail time are:

Professor Dr. Sebnem Korur Fincanci who received 30 months. Fincanci is a world renown expert on forensic detection and prevention of torture and rehabilitation of torture victims.

Dr. Ayse Erzan formerly a professor at Istanbul Technical University’s Department of Physics and has been involved in peace and women’s rights movements.

Dr. Ozdemir Aktan was a professor at of Marmara University, Department of General Surgery. He was removed from his position by State Decree for signing the Peace Petition.

Professor Dr. Gencay Gursoy specialized in neuroradiology at Istanbul University and was involved in the founding of the Human Rights Association, the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey and the Freedom Democracy Party. After his retirement he was the Chair of the Turkish Medical Association. 

Dr. Nesrin Sungur Cakmak was a professor in Economics at Marmara University and won the European Society Project Award. She is a member of the Turkish Economic Association and one of the Founders of the Freedom and Democracy Party.

Dr. Lutifiye Bozdag is a faculty member at Istanbul Altinbas University Fine Arts and Design. She was removed from her recent position at the Kocaeli University by State of Emergency decree. 

Dr. Busra Ersanli – Link:

Dr. Zubeyde Fusun Ustel – Link:


The Committee of Concerned Scientists is an independent organization of scientists, physicians, engineers and scholars devoted to the protection and advancement of human rights and scientific freedom for colleagues all over the world.

CCS is gravely concerned about the trials and sentences imposed on academics in Turkey. These academics peacefully and responsibly exerted their right to free speech in concern for the loss of life in conflicts in southeastern Turkey and requested, through signing a Peace Petition, that other means be used to resolve this conflict. CCS is requesting that the charges against these academics be dismissed and any academics detained be released immediately so that they may return to their studies, research, teaching and work that they had been doing to assist the Turkish community. CCS implores all to write letters and contact influential people to stop this current process from continuing.

These academics, in 2016, signed a Peace Petition requesting a cessation of the fighting in the predominantly Kurdish regions of southeastern Turkey and the resumption of dialogue to restore peace, after it was reported that military operations in that area resulted in hundreds of civilian casualties. Of the, over 1,128 academics signing the petition, many were terminated from their jobs and charged with “propagandizing for a terrorist group.” Passports were revoked and ability to earn wages jeopardized.

Now, two and a half years later, more than 700 of these scholars have been questioned by the police, at the moment 542 have been indicted and are in some phase of the trial process. So far, 59 academics have been sentenced to 15 months 3 have been sentenced to 18 months, one to 27 months and another to 30 months in jail. Apart from those receiving sentences in excess of two years together with six others who have refused to accept the postponement of the verdict in order to be able to appeal, all sentences have been deferred.

The court process:

Defendants appear before the court and are generally not asked any questions. The prosecutors draw up indictments (all of them are the same). The senior judge asks what the defendant has to say. Everyone says they considered it their duty to do something to stop the violence in the Southeast of the country and some add that they had no intention of propagandizing for a terrorist organization. Some of the defendants recount the human rights violations perpetrated by the state in the months leading up to the drafting of the petition. The defense attorneys explain in detail how the indictments are worthless, violate all national and international norms and agreements regarding freedom of speech, nothing in the petition advocates violence or terror, and there is not a shred of evidence that the defendant acted under orders from any terrorist organization. The judge asks the defendant if he/she accepts the postponement of the verdict. Many of the defendants view the entire process a travesty of justice and choose this option as they would like the entire matter to end. (There is a rider with this option – if the defendant is found guilty of a similar offense within the next five years they will automatically serve both sentences.) Those who do not elect this option are faced with prison time, their sentences are not deferred and they await appeal dates.

Prosecution of the remaining academics who have not, as yet been to court, continue. Over the past week the following non-deferred sentences were imposed:

* Prof. Dr. Sebnem Korur Fincanci received 30 months (with the last-minute addition of the forensic report which she had drafted about the incineration of nearly 70 people in a basement in Cizre. This report is in itself not “evidence” against her, but a deafening indictment against those responsible.) [December 19]
* Prof. Dr. Gencay Gursoy received 27 months in jail (with a last-minute additional charge added to his indictment for failure to appear remorseful) [December 11]
* Prof. Dr. Nesrin Cakmak Sungur, Prof. Dr. Ayse Erzan and Prof. Dr. Ozdemir Aktan received
15 months [December 12]
* Assoc. Prof. Lutfiye Bozdag received 18 months [December 13]
* Prof. Fusun Ustel and Prof. Dr. Busra Ersanli had previously received 15 months 

Background of those convicted:

Dr. Sebnem Korur Fincanci is a world renowned expert in the field of forensic detection and prevention of torture and rehabilitation of torture victims. She was one of the authors and promoters of the Istanbul Protocol, accepted by the United Nations as the standard procedure for uncovering evidence of torture. An an expert member, and later Chairperson, of the Institute of Forensic Medicine in Istanbul she has reported many instances of torture which otherwise would have gone undetected. She has also published widely on medical ethics. She co-founded and headed the Association of Forensic Medicine. She is currently the President of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey. In 1996 Dr. Fincanci participated in the autopsies of those exhumed from the mass graves in Bosnia for the United Nations International War Crimes Tribunal, in 2000 she took part in the work of Physicians for Human Rights in South Africa and in 2002 contributed to the research and publications of the World Health Organization on violence against women. In 2017 she received the Human Rights Award from the Physicians for Human Rights.

Dr. Ayse Erzan was a professor at Istanbul Technical University in the Department of Physics until she retired in 2012. Dr. Erzan was born in Ankara and attended Bryn Mawr College in the United States earning her BA. She then received her PhD in Physics from Stony Brook University. She returned to Ankara and has taught at Istanbul Tech since 1977. She has been involved in the peace and women’s movements. Following the 1980 coup she left the country. From 1981 to 1990 she worked at various universities and research organizations, returning to Istanbul Tech in 1990. Awards: TUBITAK science prize, the L’Oreal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science; the Rammal Award. She became an associate of the Turkish Academy of Sciences in 1995 and granted full membership in 1997. She is a member of the World Academy of Sciences and Academia Europaea and was formerly on the editorial boards of both the Journal of Statistical Physics and European Physical Journal B.

Dr. Ozdemir Aktan was a professor at Marmara University, Department of General Surgery. After working in medicine for the past 40 years he was removed from his position at Marmara University by a government decree with the power of law,for signing the Peace Petition. Dr. Aktan served as President of the Istanbul Medical Chamber for four years and the President of the Turkish Medical Association for four years. Dr. Aktan noted that it is a physician’s job to promote life and health; and opposition to war. Poor treatment, ill health and hunger fall within that jurisdiction. It is imperative that medical personnel take a position in matters affecting life.

Dr. Gencay Gursoy graduated from Istanbul University Faculty of Medicine in 1963. He specialized in neuroradiology and was a researcher in Norway and England. He became a University Professor at Istanbul University in 1980 where he set up the first neuroradiology laboratory . After the 1980 military coup, he was expelled from the university in 1983 under Martial Law and banned from public service together with two thousand other faculty members across Turkey. His passport was impounded and he was banned from travelling abroad. During this period, he began publishing, with a group of colleagues, a medical journal in Turkish, BT (computer tomography} to familiarize physicians with the new technology. In 1984 he was tried and acquitted for having signed the ‘Intellectuals’ Petition’ demanding the restoration of human rights. In 1990 he was returned to his position at the university by decree of the Council of State. In the early 1980’s he took part in the foundation of the Human Rights Association, the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey and the foundation of the Freedom and Democracy Party. After his retirement in 2006 he was the chairperson of the Turkish Medical Association for two terms. He is currently a member of the People’s Democratic Congress and the People’s Democratic Party. He has participated in the Peace Initiative and served as a spokesperson for the Peace Bloc.

Dr. Nesrin Sungur Cakmak completed her undergraduate study at Istanbul University in Business Administration and got her PhD in Economics in 1985. She became a professor in 1998 at Marmara University, Faculty of Economics and won the European Society Project Award in 1988. She is a member of the Turkish Economic Association since 2003 and took part in the foundation of the Freedom and Democracy Party in 1996. She retired in 2016.

Dr. Lutfiye Bozdag is a faculty member at Istanbul Altinbas University Fine Arts and Design. She has written art criticisms for the press and has participated in many national and international symposia and conferences. During 2007-2009 she was laid off from Mugla University three times as the workplace representative of the teachers’ union but fully reinstated in 2012 by court order.