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Turkey: Ankara Intimidating Academics, Restricting Free Speech

Erdoğan stands by the arrests of Kurdish activists, including nearly 8,000 people who have been detained and arrested since early 2009. (Photo: Office of Turkish Prime Minister)

With the recent arrest of a leading academic, concern is spreading among intellectuals in Turkey that they will have to think twice before voicing criticism of the government in the future.

Busra Ersanli, a professor of political science at Istanbul’s Marmara University, was arrested on October 28 and charged under Turkey's sweeping anti-terror laws for allegedly supporting the rebel Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a group deemed a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union, among others.

Until her arrest, Ersanli was advising the country’s main Kurdish political party, the Peace and Democracy Party or BDP, a legally registered party, on constitutional reform, a topic currently under debate in parliament. She is now in custody awaiting trial, which is not expected to start for at least a year. If convicted, she faces 20 years in prison.

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Dorian Jones is a freelance reporter based in Istanbul.

Turkey: Ankara Intimidating Academics, Restricting Free Speech

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