VIENNA, Austria — A petition started on change.org seeks the release of Sevan Nisanyan, the Turkish-Armenian journalist who has been arrested on various charges since 2012. He has been held in a maximum-security prison since 2014. He was arrested on charges of violating zoning and building codes, charges which do not merit the harsh sentence. He has been a vocal and longtime critic of the regime.
Almost 12,000 have signed it so far.
The petition, which is reproduced below, is being sent to Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu:
Sevan Nisanyan (60), a prominent Turkish intellectual of Armenian origin, was handed a cumulative jail sentence of 16 years and 7 months after he made the fatal mistake of using mocking language about Muhammed, the prophet of Islam, in a blog entry in September 2012. He has been held in a maximum-security Turkish prison since January 2, 2014. He will not be eligible for parole until 2024.
Nisanyan is a man of multiple achievements. Graduate of Yale (BA 1979) and Columbia (MA 1983), he taught linguistic history at Istanbul’s prestigious Bilgi University. His Etymological Dictionary of Modern Turkish (first ed. 2002, currently in 3rd ed.) is the main work of reference in its field. He has also written frequently on cultural and historical topics – erudite, witty and often provocative studies of the Turkish national psyche. His targets have included Atatürk and Islam, two “untouchables” of Turkish public discourse.
Nisanyan is also known for Sirince, an ancient hill village in the South Aegean, where he has lived with his family since 1992. A self-taught architect, Nisanyan led the effort to preserve and renovate the village, using strictly traditional techniques and forms. Along with Ali Nesin, a prominent mathematician, and others, he founded a series of unconventional academic institutions in Sirince, including a mathematics institute, a philosophical academy and a theater school. His work received awards, and was nominated for the prestigious Aga Khan Award for architecture.