Davis professor acquitted in Turkish court, but says country’s academics still suffering

UC Davis professor Baki Tezcan in Istanbul with his eldest son
UC Davis professor Baki Tezcan in Istanbul with his eldest son Baki Tezcan

A professor at a local university has been acquitted, but he calls it a “minor victory.”

Baki Tezcan with University of California, Davis, was cleared in a Turkish high criminal court Thursday after facing charges of “spreading terrorist propaganda” which was critical of the country’s army.

In 2016, the history professor joined more than 2,000 academics in signing a petition accusing the Turkish army of “massacring” Kurdish residents while fighting a Kurdish terrorist organization. The government has since indicted more than 700 signatories.

Previous reporting by the Bee documented Tezcan’s acquittal in a lower court. The Turkish courts resumed session following summer recess.

Tezcan received the news from his lawyer at 5:30 a.m. via WhatsApp and said it was a small personal victory, but that there are many of his fellow academics who continue to suffer.

“Me getting acquitted is good for me and my family, but it really doesn’t mean much,” Tezcan said. “Until people start getting their jobs back we cannot talk about academics. This is really a minor victory.”

Tezcan said the court’s decision was expected, but he was grateful to his counsel, Suleyman Anil, a lawyer who has represented other signatories of the petition. According to Tezcan, Anil worked for a nominal fee: 1,000 Turkish lira, or, roughly $150. They met during handling of Tezcan’s father’s estate

Tezcan says that more than 200 Turkish academics are now working in Germany through fellowships, but that many more without English or German skills are forced to find new careers for speaking out against the Turkish government. Tezcan says he believes the acquittals may have been a strategic maneuver by the regime to avoid human rights courts in Europe.

Tezcan says a colleague, Fusun Ustel, spent 2 1/2 months in prison for her signature but was recently release just days before receiving her acquittal. According to Tezcan, academics continue to face oppression and a lack of job security throughout Turkey.

“I cannot be super happy. My colleagues have been fired and are not getting their jobs back. They can’t make a living or get hired because this is on their record,” Tezcan said.

Mitchel Bobo covers breaking news for The Bee and is a journalism student at Sacramento State. He was born on Travis Air Force Base and raised in Vacaville.