GLOBAL: Academic freedom reports worldwide

In Turkey, 57 members of the Academy of Sciences have resigned in protest against a government decree that will end the academy's autonomy. In Bahrain, university students are under attack by the authorities, with hundreds being tried for pro-democracy activities and six recently receiving 15-year sentences and hefty fines in a court case widely criticised as unfair. Papuan students in Indonesia are being targeted by the authorities for what human rights groups describe as generalised intimidation and threats. And in Azerbhaijan, a top scientist has been demoted for questioning the legality of the detention of youth activist Baxtiyar Haciyev, amid moves against the Azerbaijani intelligentsia.

TURKEY: Mass resignation of science academy members

Fifty-seven academics at the Turkish Academy of Sciences resigned en masse to protest against a new decree that will end the academy's autonomy in the selection of its members, Hurriyet Daily News reported on 15 November.

The Turkish Academy of Sciences (TÜBA) was established in 1993 as an autonomous institution with independent research, finance and administration, although under the patronage of the prime minister. TÜBA currently has 140 members, including 40 honorary members, who were appointed independently.

The new statutory decree published on 27 August plans to divide the members' selection between the government, the Higher Education Board and TÜBA.

This will end TÜBA's autonomy, as the institution will be controlled by a majority of members appointed by the government.

International academies have shared their concern about the new decree and reminded the Turkish authorities that all science academies should remain autonomous institutions. In a common statement justifying the mass resignation, the academics argued that only independent scientists have the ability to select other scientists based on their merit.

Confirming their intention to retain their autonomy, the academics announced the establishment of a new independent and autonomous "Science Academy" association.

BAHRAIN: Trials of students continue

Crackdowns on university students continue in Bahrain. Dozens of students are being charged and tried, and some of them jailed, Voice of Bahrain reported on 14 November.

On 23 October, six students from the University of Bahrain - Jasim Alhulaiby (19), Jawad Almahhari (24), Yousif Ahmed (20), Shawqi Radhi (22), Jasim Almukhudur (20) and Mohamed Taqi Saleh Makki (19) - were each sentenced to 15 years in prison and a 349,300 dinar (US$925,000) fine by the military National Safety Court.

The students were accused of charges related to the violent attack, believed to have been government-sponsored, on the campus of the University of Bahrain on 17 March. The charges, which many have termed "fabricated", include theft and destruction of university property, possession of "explosive flammable weapons" and intent to kill.

The students, who were studying at the Bahrain Teachers' College, the faculty of law and the college of business administration and have been described by the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) as "academically excelling students", were arrested at their homes by security forces between 27 March and 26 April.

Reports indicate that they were denied contact with their families and lawyers. Most of them complained about physical and moral mistreatment, including extraction of confessions under torture.

According to the BCHR, the students' prosecution did not meet the conditions for a fair trial.

The court also rejected evidence that would have cleared the students and refused to investigate the allegations of torture.

Meanwhile, more than 100 students are still being judged in mass trials by the lower criminal court for their alleged participation in pro-democracy protests earlier this year. They have been charged with "illegal gathering in a public place to commit crimes, incitement of hatred towards the regime, destroying property of the University of Bahrain and the attack on the body of a third party".

The University of Bahrain remains under close surveillance by the authorities and concerns have been voiced about the negative impact on the educational environment. On 24 October, hundreds of students were searched at checkpoints set up on campus and two students, Hassan Qambar and Muhammad Anwar, were arrested and detained for a week.

Dozens of other students, dismissed from their tertiary institutions, are still waiting to resume their studies.

INDONESIA: Papuan students intimidated

Local organisations and civil society groups have protested over raids against Papuan students' dormitories by Indonesian security forces, The Jakarta Post reported on 14 November.

The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) and Papuan civil society groups - including the West Papua National Committee, the Foker Papua NGOs Cooperation Forum and the Papuan Community Alliance against Corruption - condemned the systematic attacks by security forces on Papuan students in Jakarta and Denpasar, Bali.

On 12 November armed officers from the army and national police raided a Papuan student dormitory in Tebet, South Jakarta. The incursion was officially justified by the need to collect data on Papuan students based in Jakarta. Students were left terrified and traumatised by the incident.

This came nine days after a police officer infiltrated a Papuan female dormitory in Denpasar and asked the students to leave their identity cards with officers, officially for security reasons.

According to Haris Azhar, a Kontras coordinator, Papuan students living outside Papua are subject to generalised intimidation and threats. He argued that these raids violate article nine of the 1999 Law on Human Rights.

Azhar exhorted the army and police to stop intimidation campaigns against Papuans and called on the authorities to investigate the attacks.

AZERBAIJAN: Renowned scientist demoted for criticism

Rafiq Aliyev, a professor at Azerbaijan's Oil Academy, has been demoted after criticising the authorities for the detention of a youth activist, Radio Free Europe reported on 7 November.

Aliyev was demoted from his post as chair of robotised control systems at the academy days after he questioned the legality of the detention of youth activist Baxtiyar Haciyev (also known as Bakhtiyar Hajiyev) under Azerbaijani law.

Aliyev is officially accused of violating the labour code by "not carrying out his commitments in accordance with his employment contract". Despite these accusations, he remains a member of the academy.

Haciyev is a former Harvard student and youth activist who previously ran for parliamentary elections. He was sentenced in May to two years in prison for failing to complete his military service. But his supporters argue his arrest is related to his criticism of the government and his recent calls via Facebook for anti-government protests.

Eldar Namazov, head of the Forum of Intelligentsia of Azerbaijan, asserted that Aliyev's demotion was ordered by Azerbaijani authorities in relation to his socio-political activities and described it as a "disgrace to the academy".

He shared his concerns about a campaign currently targeting the Azerbaijani intelligentsia and rising tensions with the authorities, and called for dialogue.

No comment has been made by the ministry of education or by Aliyev.

* 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.