Turkish mathematician Tuna Altinel, a teacher in Lyon, returned to France this Friday after two years of “fighting” in Turkey to recover his passport, which had been confiscated. He was greeted on his arrival at Lyon-Saint-Exupéry airport to the applause of his support committee, which included the deputy and mathematician Cédric Villani, the president of the University Lyon-I Frédéric Fleury, as well as Cédric Van Styvendael, the PS mayor of Villeurbanne, a town which made him an honorary citizen.
“I spent two years in various kinds of detention, just because I had participated in a legal, public evening on the demands of a people, in this case the Kurdish people. This is the reason why the Turkish consulate denounced me, ”recalled the academic in front of journalists. “There are hundreds, thousands of Tuna Altinels who don’t have a support committee. The fight is therefore not over, ”he added.
Arrested in May 2019 and imprisoned in Turkey for “terrorism”, then acquitted, Tuna Altinel was prevented from returning to France because of the refusal of the Turkish authorities, reiterated on several occasions, to return his passport to him. After appeals, this lecturer at Claude-Bernard University in Lyon was able to recover his travel document at the end of May. But “my personal fight is not over because the decision of the administrative tribunal is under appeal,” said Tuna Altinel, who expects her “life in France to be transformed into the life of an exile”.
In France for 25 years
For Cédric Villani, the situation of the academic, who has lived in France for twenty-five years, is a “tragic irony”, for a “mathematician accustomed to clear and logical reasoning and who finds himself confronted with the absurd and the ‘arbitrary’. He said he wanted the mathematician “to resume his place which is his with his colleagues in Lyon”.
Tuna Altinel thanked the University of Lyon-I for having supported him, in particular by “not cutting” his salary. He underlined “the importance of the public university in France while in Turkey, the university body is being dismantled”.