An İstanbul high criminal court on Thursday ruled to acquit British academic Chris Stephenson, who was tried for allegedly spreading terrorist propaganda due to his signature on a petition that called for a peaceful resolution to the country’s Kurdish conflict, Deutsche Welle Turkish service reported.
Stephenson, a computer sciences lecturer at the İstanbul-based private Bilgi University, is the 38th academic to be acquitted in the cases related to the peace petition.
“And acquittal … Heartfelt thanks to everyone who acted in solidarity. I hope the same outcome for everyone unfairly prosecuted,” he tweeted.
Stephenson was one of the signatories of the peace declaration which called on the government to restore peace in the country’s southeast and return to the negotiating table to restart shelved talks with the Kurds to find a peaceful solution to the Kurdish issue. A total of 1,128 academics signed the declaration, which attracted widespread criticism from the government.
The peace declaration frustrated President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government, leading to retribution against the academics. Some of the insults Erdoğan used against them included “so-called intellectuals,” “a flock called intellectuals,” “traitors” and “rough copies of intellectuals.”
Hundreds of academics who signed the declaration were detained when police raided their homes and offices across Turkey after the declaration was announced on Jan. 11, 2016, while hundreds of them were removed from their jobs.
Stephenson was also detained on March 16, 2016 at a courthouse in İstanbul where he had gone to support three scholars charged with making terrorism propaganda.
The academic was detained when security guards found Nevruz, a spring festival, invitations in his bag and then police detained him. A prosecutor who launched an investigation against Stephenson subsequently asked his deportation from the country where he has lived for 25 years.
The academic left Turkey on March 17,2016 without waiting for the issuing of a court decision regarding his deportation. He returned to Turkey six days later.