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Turkish Court Sentences 3 Academics for Criticizing 'Massacre' of Kurds

A Turkish has court has given three academics suspended jail sentences for spreading terror propaganda.

The three were among hundreds of international and Turkish academics who signed a petition in January 2016 calling on the Turkish government to stop the "deliberate massacre and deportation of Kurdish people."

In August 2015, Turkey's military began conducting operations to cleanse the PKK, a designated terror organization, from Kurdish-dominated towns in southeastern Turkey. Their operations were harshly criticized for the high civilian death toll and widespread destruction.

Calling themselves Academics for Peace, the signatories of the petition condemned the military operations, including curfews and the use of heavy weaponry, and called for the government to immediately ceasefire and begin negotiations leading to peace.

"We, as academics and researchers working on and/or in Turkey, declare that we will not be a party to this massacre by remaining silent and demand an immediate end to the violence perpetrated by the state," reads the petition dated January 10, 2016. "We will continue advocacy with political parties, the parliament, and international public opinion until our demands are met."

Three academics, were each given a year and three months suspended sentences, according to Dogan News Agency. Dr. Izzettin Onder, Ayda Rona Aylin Altibay, and Ezgi Pinar, of the University of Istanbul, were sentenced for "making terror propaganda."

They are the first of over 100 signatories of the petition who are facing similar charges in the courts, AFP reported.

Academics for Peace report that the signatories have come under repeated attacks since publishing the petitions.

"Hundreds of them have been fired from their jobs, their passports have been cancelled and confiscated, they were prevented from finding jobs, several were physically and verbally threatened... In short, the signatories have faced "civil death,"" the group stated.

The sentences come as Turkey has increased its crackdown on dissent amid its ongoing offensive against Kurdish groups in Afrin, northern Syria.

Free press advocate the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) urged Ankara to scrap a draft bill that would "expand internet censorship."

The parliament's planning and budget commission this week reportedly passed an article that would require online broadcasters, such as YouTube and Netflix, to be regulated by RTUK, the federal TV and radio authority.

CPJ expressed concern that the article "would also extend RTUK's regulation authority to personal social media accounts."

"We call on Turkish authorities to abandon this latest attempt to deprive citizens of their right to access independent, alternative news and commentary," said CPJ's Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova.

"This government, which already has control over traditional media in Turkey, is now aiming to police the internet as well."

The bill still must be approved by parliament. If it becomes law, RTUK will be able to apply for a court order to block, remove, or censor content "that authorities deem objectionable," CPJ stated.

Turkey has arrested hundreds for social media posts criticizing the Afrin operation.

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