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GLOBAL: Academic freedom reports worldwide

In Turkey, in an ongoing operation against Kurdish political parties, two academics have been arrested and charged under the Anti Terror Law, but there are concerns about fair trial standards. In the Philippines, educators and activists fear for their lives after the brutal killing of a university vice-president and given escalating - seemingly politically motivated - attacks and murders. In Bahrain, concerns have been expressed about the fairness of the trial of a professor arrested and suspended from his position, amid a wider crackdown on academic freedoms. In Laos rights groups are calling for the release of political prisoners, including four student leaders who remain incarcerated 12 years after protests in the country were crushed. And a US climate change scientist has hailed as a victory for academic freedom and science a court ruling to deny access by a pro-industry think-tank to his private emails.

TURKEY: Anti Terror Law - Academics arrested, charged

Two academics have been arrested and charged under the Anti Terror Law, in a mass operation targeting Kurdish political parties in Istanbul, International PEN reported on 2 November.

Political scientist and constitutional law expert Professor Büşra Ersanli and prominent political activist Ragip Zarakolu were arrested on 28 October in an Istanbul Chief Prosecutor's Office operation targeting the political party, the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK).

They were arrested with 41 others including journalists, writers and members of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), which is focused on the Kurdish issue.

The arrests are part of a larger operation, started in 2009 and still ongoing, targeting Kurdish political parties including the KCK.

Acording to Özcan Kılıç, Ersanli and Zarakolu's lawyer, the academics were arrested in relation to lectures they gave at the BDP Academy.

PEN, an organisation in which Zarakolu is a leading member in Turkey, announced that both were charged under the Anti Terror Law, adding that these charges were related to the exercise of their right to freedom of expression.

Ersanli, who works at Marmara University in Istanbul, is a BDP member. She sits on the party's constitutional commission, aiming to draft a new constitution, and is part of its assembly. She was to have attended a conference on "Controversial Issues in the History of the Turkish Republic" at Istanbul Bilgi University on 29 October.

Zarakolu is an academic, writer and publisher, well known for his work in defending freedom of expression and minority rights. He is head of the Turkish Publishers' Union's committee for the freedom of publishing. In the days leading up to his arrest, he had been campaigning for the release of his son, Deniz Zarakolu, who had been arrested three weeks earlier, also under the KCK operation.

On 31 October, an Istanbul court released a ruling ordering 44 detainees to be jailed while waiting for their trial.

Concerns have been raised about the accessibility for all detainees to fair trial standards, including a reasonable wait for their trail to start.

The KCK is seen by the authorities as the civil wing of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which is outlawed and considered by government to be a terrorist organisation. Despite official claims that the BDP is not affiliated to or influenced by the PKK, the authorities continue to arrest and harass its members.

Among the early KCK operation arrests was lawyer and writer Muharrem Erbey, arrested in December 2009 and still in detention. His trial is under way and is being monitored by PEN.

* Extra sources: Network of Concerned Historians.

PHILIPPINES: Academics, unionists targetted for attack

After the recent killing of Polytechnic University of the Philippines Vice-president Attorney Augusto F Cezar, concern has been raised about the increasing number of killings targeting teachers and union activists in the Philippines, Education International reported on 2 November.

Cezar was brutally killed in an ambush by two motorcycle-riding gunmen on 12 October while driving home after a late meeting in Manila. The killing is still under investigation by the Manila Police District.

Academics, teachers and union activists have been the recent target of persecution and killings in the Philippines, in what appear to be politically motivated attacks, forcing them to live and work in a climate of fear. These attacks represent a clear violation of the basic rights to life and education.

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers, a teacher union affiliated to Education International, strongly condemned the recent killings and warned that if the police failed to end the killings, this would send a clear message to academia that impunity is still rampant in the country and that the authorities are unable to protect them.

Education International asked for the impartial investigation of the killings and called on the authorities in the Philippines to guarantee the protection of education personnel, including university staff and students.

BAHRAIN: Academic's trial due to start

The trial of Professor Masaud Jahromi, chair of the telecommunication engineering department at Ahlia University in Manama, was due to start on 2 November but concerns have been raised about its fairness, Scholars at Risk reported on 1 November.

Jahromi, who holds a PhD in telecommunication networking from the University of Kent, UK, was arrested on 14 April and detained for five months, before being released on bail on 12 September but charged with "participation in an unauthorised rally".

On the night of Jahromi's arrest, it was reported that his family suffered threats and harassment from police officers, who broke into his house where he was beaten and then taken to an unknown location.

During his months in detention, he was denied contact with his family and lawyer and had no access to medical care despite suffering from hepatitis C.

Scholars at Risk, an international network of universities and colleges dedicated to promoting academic freedom, has called on the Bahraini authorities to ensure Jahromi's trial complies with internationally recognised standards for a fair trial. Bahrain is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The arrest of Jahromi and his suspension from his university position are part of a larger crackdown on intellectuals, academics and students following the February and March protests calling for democracy and reforms in the kingdom.

Hundreds of students and academics have been interrogated, suspended, expelled and arrested for their alleged participation in anti-government protests.

LAOS: Rights groups' call to free student leaders

Twelve years after the suppression of student protests in Laos, rights groups are calling for the release of all political prisoners - including four student leaders who have been incarcerated for participating in peaceful protests, Radio Free Asia reported on 25 October.

Seng-Aloun Phengphanh, Bouavanh Chanmanivong, Kčochay and Thongpaseuth Keuakoun, four student leaders and members of the Lao Students Movement for Democracy, were arrested in 1999 and sentenced to 20 years in prison for their participation in the protests, in which they called for political and human rights reforms and an end to corruption.

Nouamkham Khamphylavong, president of the student movement, who managed to escape the repression and is currently living in exile in Seattle, shared her concerns about the harsh and degrading detention conditions faced by those who remained.

She fears for their personal welfare and mental well-being, particularly given the uncertainty around their case.

It was reported that Thongpaseuth Keuakoun's health has sharply declined and that Khamphouvieng Sisa-Ath, another student leader jailed with the group, died in prison following a punishment by guards.

Human rights organisations, including the Lao Students Movement for Democracy and exiled dissidents, called on the international community and international organisations to pressure Laos President Choummaly Sayasone and his Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong to release the student leaders after their 12 years in prison.

An impartial investigation into the death of Khamphouvieng Sisa-Ath has also been requested.

The Lao Students Movement for Democracy, also known as the Movement of 26 October 1999, remains active in Laos among students but its activities have to stay underground to avoid repression by the country's authorities.

The student movement continues to call for freedom and democracy in Laos, which is still strictly controlled by the Communist Party.

US: Climate scientist wins case over private emails access

Michael Mann, a climate change scientist, has won a legal battle revoking a previous authorisation to look at his University of Virginia private emails, the Guardian reported on 2 November.

On 1 November, Judge Gaylord Finch from Manassas in Virginia ruled against an attempt by the think-tank American Tradition Institute (ATI), known for its pro-industry positions, to access thousands of Mann's private emails.

The University of Virginia, Mann's former employer, was also asked to re-examine its decision, largely criticised among scientists, to give access to thousands of private emails to ATI's lawyers before they went public.

Reacting to the decision Mann, now working at Pennsylvania State University, called it a "good day" for academic freedom and the sciences more generally.

Increasingly, scientists are being asked to release private documents and correspondence but many consider such requests as part of an attempt to intimidate them and limit their research.

Mann's work on the 'hockey stick graph', which demonstrates a sudden rise in global warming, attracted criticism from climate science sceptics.

Although he was cleared several times of any scientific misconduct, he was still accused by the ATI and Virginia's attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, of having manipulated data in order to attract research grants.

Legally, Mann still has to come to an agreement on email access with the university and the ATI by 20 December. Otherwise, the judge will impose one.

* Noemi Bouet is a programme officer at the Network for Education and Academic Rights, NEAR, a non-profit organisation that facilitates the rapid global transfer of accurate information in response to breaches of academic freedom and human rights in education.


Comment:

Very sad in all human freedom and democracy that such no other ways are followed and social justice achieved for all.

Silone P
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