More and more voices are rising in France, including in the government, to denounce the repression suffered by Turkish academics, accused by Ankara of "terrorist propaganda" after signing, in 2016, a "petition for peace ".
This is the case of Füsun Üstel, a retired teacher at the Galatasaray Francophone Public University, established in 1992 as part of a Franco-Turkish agreement. She was imprisoned in the Eskisehir Women's Prison (west of Ankara) on May 8, after being sentenced to 15 months in prison. His crime: having signed, like thousands of colleagues, the petition launched by "Academics for Peace", a collective of Turkish academics, entitled "We, teachers-researchers of Turkey, we will not be complicit in this crime!"
In the text, academics denounced the fate of civilians in the Kurdish-dominated south-east, facing the operations of Turkish security forces against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). In particular, they accused the Turkish state of "violating fundamental rights" by imposing a curfew in many towns in the Kurdish provinces at the time, with the consequence of "condemning their inhabitants to starvation", and use of "heavy weapons used in wartime".
#TristNew Füsun Üstel, our political scientist was imprisoned in Turkey to serve his 15-month prison term for signing the petition of Turkish academics for peace.
See his last lecture given before his incarceration: https://t.co/6EzlOihcLZ pic.twitter.com/AW5m7YVEsc
Hundreds of academics attached to various institutions in the country are now being sued by the Turkish courts because of this petition. One hundred and ninety-one of them have already been sentenced to prison in major trials. Some have been sentenced to a suspended prison sentence after having made a declaration of repentance. Füsun Üstel, for his part, refused to comply with this exercise in order not to legitimize the verdict of guilt. An international appeal was launched to request his release by the association Solidarity with academics for peace and human rights in Turkey (SUP-DDHT), relayed in France by the French Association of Sociology.
In a statement issued on May 13, French diplomacy "regretted" the imprisonment of Füsun Üstel, and called on Turkey "to fully respect its commitments on human rights and fundamental freedoms". France, adds the text, "continues to follow with attention the proceedings initiated in Turkey against academics who signed a petition for peace in January 2016, among which are 25 teachers of the University of Galatasaray" .
#Turkey France🇫🇷 regrets the incarceration of Professor Füsun Üstel, who was sentenced to 15 months in prison. It expresses its concern about the detention of Tuna Altinel, a lecturer at Lyon-I.https: //t.co/ywEGujpuKRFrance Diplomatie🇫🇷 (@francediplo) May 13, 2019
Turkey is regularly singled out by human rights and press freedom organizations, which have denounced the proliferation of arrests of academics, civil servants, civil servants, women and men since the failed 2016 coup. trade unionists and journalists. Numerous purges have led in recent years to the imprisonment of nearly 80,000 people suspected of links with the putsch against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan or with terrorism.
Mobilization for a Lyon-I teacher detained in Turkey
Tuesday, May 14 in Lyon, at least 200 people, including elected officials, academics, members of associations and unions, met to demand the release of another signatory of the petition, Tuna Altinel, placed in detention in Turkey since May 11th. Highly committed to the defense of human rights, this Turkish mathematician, who has been living in France for more than 20 years, is a lecturer at Lyon-I University and a public servant of the French State.
He also accused of "propaganda for a terrorist organization", his case provoked protests from several unions of teachers and researchers.
The National Institute of Mathematical Sciences and their interactions is concerned about the deprivation of liberty of the mathematician Tuna Altinel and brings him and his family all his support for the crossing of this test. pic.twitter.com/7Xw2ZPvitMMaths at the CNRS (@INSMI_CNRS) May 13, 2019
In a statement, the Quai d'Orsay also spoke of his situation, expressing "his concern about (s) remand in custody last weekend". Tuesday, the Minister of Higher Education Frédérique Vidal has published a tweet about him. "I have written to my Turkish counterpart to express my deepest concern about the situation of Professor Tuna Altinel, so that he can quickly return and resume his teaching activities at the University of Lyon 1". she wrote on Twitter.
Tuna Altinel was briefly arrested on April 12 when he arrived in Turkey, where he was on vacation. After an interrogation, his passport was confiscated. Prevented de facto from returning to France, he was arrested on May 10, accused this time of having organized a conference on Turkish Kurds, on February 21 in Lyon, and to be in contact with the PKK, a recognized organization as a terrorist by Turkey and the European Union.
Contacted by AFP, Mehmet Özgür Çakar, Turkey's consul general in Lyon, merely confirmed that "his passport had been confiscated, canceled in April". And he added: "He organized and moderated near Lyon a meeting that was a total propaganda for the PKK, it is possible that it has made his situation worse".
According to the Association Amitiés Kurdes Lyon and Rhône Alpes, at the origin of the conference, the 53-year-old mathematician did not organize the event and does not belong to the PKK at all. As a member of this association, he had simply translated the words of a member of parliament in exile of the Democratic Peoples Party (HDP, pro-Kurd).
"It will be difficult to bend Erdogan"
"Tuna Altinel is a discreet person but very determined, who knows the risks of his total commitment to peace in his country, says Gilles Lemée, member of the association's office, France 24. Because it is he had already gone to Turkey on February 28 to testify in court about the petition before returning to France, and even intended to return to his country for the verdict of his planned trial. in July".
The researcher in mathematics has always refused to apply for French nationality "in solidarity with his colleagues living in Turkey," said Gilles Lemée, because they could not benefit "of this protection that confers the French passport".
After several days of silence, Tuna Altinel managed to send, from her place of detention, a letter to France, published Wednesday by the Association Amitiés Kurdes Lyon and Rhône Alpes. "Dear friends, I am in good spirits, my health is very good, the conditions of my environment too ... Whatever happens, outside or inside, we will continue our journey until peace is established and democracy is established, "he writes.
A message that caused a mixed feeling among his loved ones. "His letter is both reassuring about his state of health, but it is feared through his remarks that there are long months in jail, or years, because it will be difficult to bend Erdogan, says Gilles Lemée. Despite the good intentions of French diplomacy, all this is bad for our friend, but also for democracy in Turkey.