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Turkish academics face terror probe for criticising military campaign

More than 1,000 face investigation for petitioning against operations in Kurdish-majority southeast, with president calling them 'fifth columnists'
A man searches through wreckage of a damaged building in Diyarbakir (AFP)

Turkish security services have launched an investigation into more than 1,000 academics who signed a petition condemning the state's actions in the southeast of the country.

The petition, entitled 'We won't be a party to this crime' called on the Turkish government to "abandon its deliberate massacre and deportation of Kurdish and other peoples in the region" and was signed by academics from over 90 Turkish universities as well as foreign academic heavyweights David Harvey, Noam Chomsky and Slavoj Zizek.

One academic, sociologist Latife Akyuz, has already been sacked by Duzce University, according to the Dogan news agency.

According to Anadolu news agency, the academics are being charged by prosecutors with "terrorist propaganda" to "inciting people to hatred, violence and breaking the law" and "insulting Turkish institutions and the Turkish Republic".

Under article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code - which has been heavily criticised by European human rights bodies - it is illegal to insult Turkey, the Turkish nation, or Turkish government institutions.

The violence in Turkey's southeast - where hundreds have been killed in clashes between the Turkish state and Kurdish militants linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) - has ratcheted up in recent days.

A truck bomb attack on a police station by suspected Kurdish militants in Cinar in the southeastern province of Diyarbakir killed six people on Thursday, including three children, while 39 others were wounded on Thursday.

Turkish Recep Tayyip Erdogan slammed the signatories to the letter dismissing them as "so-called intellectuals" and "fifth columns".

"You are people in the dark. You are not intellectuals!" he said. "All you want is to stir up this country."

He had previously suggested that if Noam Chomsky were concerned about the situation in the southeast, he should come to the country.

On Thursday, Chomsky hit back at Erdogan accusing him of holding "double standards" on terrorism.

“If I decide to go to Turkey, it will not be on his invitation, but as frequently before at the invitation of the many courageous dissidents, including Kurds who have been under severe attack for many years," wrote the activist and linguist, in an email to the Guardian.

The PKK launched a guerilla war against the Turkish state in 1984 which has claimed over 40,000 lives and brought accusations of human rights abuses on both sides.

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