UK academic in Turkey faces five years in jail for ‘terrorism propaganda’
ISTANBUL – Doğan News Agency
AFP photoA prosecutor demanded up to five years in jail for a British academic, who was taken into custody on suspicion of “conducting terrorist propaganda” for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), on April 29.
Chris Stephenson, a lecturer in computer science at Istanbul’s Bilgi University, was detained in front of Istanbul’s Çağlayan Courthouse on March 15, where he was supporting three Turkish academics detained in as part of a probe into signatories of a petition calling for an end to clashes between security forces and PKK militants in January.
Stephenson was detained for possession of 10 leaflets for the spring festival Nevruz. The leaflets, which featured pictures of masked people lighting fires and building barricades on the streets, were seized from Stephenson’s bag while he was entering the courthouse, the indictment stated.
It also said the leaflets showed PKK and Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK) flags in a meeting area, and were prepared by members of the PKK in support of the organization.
“The leaflets were prepared in order to support the terrorist organization by legitimizing illegal activities, such as lighting fires and building barriers,” the indictment read.
It also drew attention to the leaflet’s message reading, “To a free Nevruz with self-government,” stating that this slogan was often used by the PKK and the KCK.
“The PKK and the KCK … have been using this slogan in order to legitimize their demands for so-called self-governance, so the leaflet was prepared for that purpose,” the indictment read.
Stephenson, who has been based in Turkey for 25 years, denied having any connections to a terrorist group.
A date for the trial has yet to be set.