Turkish intellectual jailed for signing an appeal for Kurdish rights

Zübeyde Füsun Üstel must serve a sentence of one year and three months in prison. Together with another 2,000 academics and thinkers she signed a petition entitled "We will not be party to this crime". In the past she studied in Italian Catholic universities. Before entering prison she declared: "Peace will win in the end".

Istanbul (AsiaNews) - Sentenced to one year and three months in prison, for having signed an appeal for peace and dialogue with the Kurdish minority (including armed militias), long targeted by the leadership of Ankara and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In these days  prison doors have opened for the Turkish Professor and intellectual Zübeyde Füsun Üstel, who studied both in French and Italian Catholic universities, with tenure at the University of Galatasaray, in Istanbul.

A sentence that confirms the campaign of repression against dissidents, critical voices or simple free thinkers.

Local sources report that the judges of the 3rd Panel Chamber of the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice imposed 15 months in prison in Zübeyde Füsun Üstel, for having signed - together with 2 thousand others - a petition entitled "We will not be party to this crime". A campaign that denounces the violations of human rights in the cities of Cizre and Silopi, in the region of Eastern Anatolia and that could lead, after this verdict, other signatories may end up in jail like her.

Activists and human rights groups including Civil Rights Defenders are launching an appeal for her release, stressing that the call for respect for civil liberties and peace cannot be considered a crime by the state. In a note delivered to colleagues before the sentence, the professor emphasized that " As an academic, as an intellectual, and as a citizen, I joined my colleagues to call for lasting and fair peace in my country. I will go to prison for demanding peace. I am confident that, despite everything, peace will win in the end".

Promoted in 2016, the campaign calls on the Turkish government to grant free access to national and international observers in areas with a Kurdish majority. In mid-July that year the power of President Erdogan faltered for a night, in the context of a failed coup . Since then the Turkish government has pursued a witch hunt against hundreds of thousands of people. According to the latest estimates there are over 77 thousand people in prison awaiting trial, while arrests continue. The authorities have also suspended or fired 150,000 public officials or members of the army, among whom there are also senior officers.

Plainclothes security agents have pushed defenseless citizens into mini-vans in broad daylight, or gone after people who left Turkey long ago seeking a new life. All of them linked by the same thing, namely a real or presumed affiliation with Turkish Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, who now lives in exile in Pennsylvania (United States).

 Zübeyde Füsun Üstel, a leading exponent of various civil society organizations, was handed over on 8 May to the guards of the women's prison in Eski┼čehir, a city in northwestern Turkey, accompanied by her lawyer. In the same prison there are other intellectuals and activists, among whom personalities like her who have spent their life in appeals for freedom and rights. Under the penal code on crimes related to "terrorism", she must serve at least three quarters of the sentence (11 months) and the remaining period on probation.