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THERE was jubilation outside an Istanbul court room today following the release of academic Hanifi Baris, who faces prison for criticising the Turkish government.
The Aberdeen University academic was arrested in Istanbul in July for “posting items with criminal content on Facebook and Twitter accounts.”
Despite being released, he still faces up to four years in prison for “insulting the president,” having shared articles criticising Recep Tayyip Erdogan following June’s presidential and parliamentary elections.
The former lawyer is a signatory to the Academics for Peace petition, calling for a peaceful settlement to Turkey’s so-called Kurdish question.
Thousands of academics who have signed the statement have been branded terrorists and purged from their jobs.
Mr Baris arrived in court from the notorious Silivri prison where he had been held since his arrest.
He told the court: “I did not think the posts I shared were a crime requiring a defence.”
He explained that his studies in political science centred on Kurdish affairs, so he often shares academic articles and news relating to Kurdish matters.
“The shares are from reputable international news organisations. They are for academic purposes.
“The indictment includes articles and photo add-ons from the posts themselves,” he explained.
Mr Baris was released by the court, to reappear in January. A travel ban was imposed, preventing him from leaving Turkey.
The freedom of expression network English Pen’s representative Debbie Luxon was in court as an observer. She told the Star of the jubilation of Mr Baris’s family and supporters on his release.
“More releases need to be made and more international attention given — such as the attention the case received today.
“Trials similar to this occur every day in Istanbul courthouses and it has become the norm to see academics’ and journalists’ detentions sustained again and again,” she said.
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