Dr. Rennan Pekunlu, a professor of astrophysics at Ege University in Turkey was sentenced to two years in jail over charges that he stopped students that were wearing headscarves from attending classes. Dr. Pekunlu denies the charges and says that he was only telling students that they were violating the ban on wearing headscarves at Universities. The ban was lifted in 2010. His lawyer, Fatih Ulku, is appealing the conviction to the European Human Rights court.
President Recip Tayyip Erdogan
Republic of Turkey
January 28, 2015
We are writing in concern for Professor Rennan Pekunlu.
Dr. Pekunlu, a professor of astrophysics at the Department of Astronomy and Space Sciences at Ege University, was sentenced to two years in jail for preventing students from entering classes wearing headscarves, charges that he disputes. Prosecutors now threaten him with 12 years in jail based on two other cases on the same charge. According to reports, Pekunlu was dismissed from his position by the Higher Education Board (YOK).
Pekunlu claims he did not prevent the students from entering their classrooms, according to his lawyer Fatih Ulku. He told the students that he would report them for violating the law against headscarves in force at the time (the ban was later lifted by the Higher Education Board). He received a suspended sentence on similar charges in 2012. His lawyer, who said he is the first person in Turkey to be jailed for this offense, is appealing the conviction to the European Human Rights court.
We believe that a sentence of 12 years on actions that may have been lawful at the time is vastly excessive, as is a sentence of two years. In view of this threat, we urge you to investigate this case and dismiss the prosecution for actions that were lawful when they were taken and require reinstatement of Pekunlu in his position at Ege University. His suspension from his position for a time is certainly sufficient punishment.
Sincerely,Joel L. Lebowitz, Paul H. Plotz, Walter Reich,
Eugene M. Chudnovsky, Alexander Greer
Co-Chairs, Committee of Concerned Scientists
- Turkish professor given prison sentence over headscarf ban (todayszaman.com)