Turkey holds 27 academics over peace call

Turkish security forces have detained 27 academics accused of terrorist propaganda, local media say, over a declaration that criticised military action in the largely Kurdish southeast and urged an end to curfews.

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Speaking after Friday prayers, President Tayyip Erdogan denounced the 1000 signatories of the document, who included US philosopher Noam Chomsky, and said those who did not want to do politics in parliament “should go dig trenches or go to the mountains” – a reference to the tactics and hideouts of the Kurdish militant group PKK.

The Turkish opposition and the US ambassador to Turkey had already criticised prosecutors’ actions in ordering investigations and home searches of academics across the country after Erdogan criticised the signatories in a speech on Thursday.

The declaration was inspired by clashes between government forces and the PKK since a ceasefire broke down in July.

The military has locked down entire districts and pounded PKK outposts in residential areas, but denies accusations that its actions have endangered and killed civilians.

The majority of Friday’s detentions were in the western industrial province of Kocaeli, close to Istanbul, local media reported. The Kocaeli prosecutor’s office had no comment.

Meanwhile, clashes continued between government forces and PKK fighters, with five militants and a policeman killed in the eastern town of Siirt, security sources told Reuters.

The army said in a statement that 19 PKK militants had been killed on Thursday in three southeastern provinces under curfew.

The declaration, published on Monday, accused the government of heavy-handedness in its efforts to weed out militants, who have increasingly brought their fight out of the mountains and into the towns, creating a major headache for security forces.

“The right to life, liberty, and security, and in particular the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment protected by the constitution and international conventions have been violated,” the declaration read.

“We demand that the state abandon its deliberate massacre.”

More than 2000 lawyers signed and published online a pledge to offer free legal assistance to the academics.

“The declaration does not praise or call for hate or committing crimes,” said one law professor, asking not to be named for fear he himself would be prosecuted.