Turkish lecturer ‘to be tried over PKK exam question’

A Turkish professor is to be put on trial for “terrorist propaganda” over an exam question on a jailed Kurdish rebel chief

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A Turkish professor is to be put on trial for “terrorist propaganda” over an exam question on a jailed Kurdish rebel chief, the Hurriyet newspaper reported Tuesday, amid growing concerns for freedom of expression in Turkey.

At the end of a course on Turkish politics and institutions, Ankara University professor Resat Baris Unlu set his students a question comparing two documents written by the founder of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), who is currently serving life in jail.

The paper asked students to “compare Abdullah Ocalan’s 1978 manifesto entitled ‘The Path of the Kurdistan Revolution’ and an article he wrote in 2012 called ‘Democratic Modernity as the Construction of Local System in the Middle East’.”

Ankara prosecutors seized on the question, deciding his intent had been “to legitimise (Ocalan’s) opinions and impress upon (his students) the idea that he was a political leader.”

Despite efforts to intervene by the dean of the faculty in the name of “academic freedom,” the prosecutor ordered the professor to appear in court, recommending he be sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment.

The hearing has been set for Wednesday, the paper said.

Turkish prosecutors opened a criminal probe last month into a popular television talk show on suspicion it had broadcast “terrorist propaganda” when a caller phoned in to raise alarm over the human cost of a military crackdown on Kurdish rebels in the strife-hit southeast.

Also last month, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden criticized Turkey for failing to set the right “example” on freedom of expression, after the detention of three senior journalists and a major probe into more than 1,200 academics who signed a petition criticizing the military offensive.

The military is currently waging a major campaign against PKK rebels with the stated aim of flushing out militants, but activists say the operation has cost dozens of civilian lives.

Violence flared last summer between Kurdish rebels and government forces after a deadly bombing in a Kurdish majority town, shattering a 2013 ceasefire reached after secret talks between Ocalan and Ankara.

Over 40,000 people have been killed since the PKK took up arms in 1984 demanding an independent state for Kurds. Since then the group has narrowed its demands to greater autonomy and cultural rights.