ISTANBUL — Police in the northwestern province of Kocaeli in Turkey have detained 12 academics that signed a petition to call for an end to military operations in Southeast Anatolia, just days after President Recep Erdogan slammed the academics for making “terrorist propaganda,” the Hurriyet Daily News reports.

The Kocaeli Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation against 21 academics from Kocaeli University that signed a petition by the “Academics for Peace” initiative. The signatories of the petition, some 1,128 local and international academics and intellectuals, were labelled “poor excuses for intellectuals,” by Erdogan.

Police raided the academics’ houses early on Jan. 15 and detained 12 who were at their declared addresses at the time. The remaining nine will also be detained, state-run Anadolu Agency said, quoting sources from the police.

According to reports, the academics are being charged with violating the controversial Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, according to which it is illegal to insult the Turkish nation, the state of the Turkish Republic or the Grand Assembly of Turkey and the state’s judicial institutions. The academics are also accused of “terrorist propaganda.”

The investigation and the detentions come soon after Turkey’s president slammed the petition’s signatories, arguing the human rights violations in the southeast are being committed by outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants and not the Turkish state.

“Despite all of these facts, this crowd, which calls itself academics, accuses the state through a statement. Not only this, they also invite foreigners to monitor developments. This is the mentality of colonialism,” he said. Likening today’s situation with the Turkish War of Independence, Erdogan said the country was again facing “treason” from “so-called intellectuals.”

“Hey, you so-called intellectuals! You are not enlightened persons, you are in the dark. You are nothing like intellectuals. You are ignorant and dark, not even knowing about the east or the southeast. We know these places just like we know our home addresses,” he said, reiterating his position that Turkey’s problem is “not a Kurdish one, but one of terror.”

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