Reuters International

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Four Turkish academics jailed on charges of spreading terrorist propaganda were released pending trial by an Istanbul court on Friday, a group of their colleagues said on Facebook.

Turkish authorities arrested the four in March, after they publicly read out a declaration calling for an end to security operations in the mainly Kurdish southeast.

They were among more than 2,000 academics who signed a petition calling for peace. President Tayyip Erdogan later said that those who signed the petition would pay a price for their "treachery".

"We are excited to announce the release of our colleagues. We will read out a press statement in front of the courthouse soon," the Academics for Peace group, which represents those who signed the petition, said on its Facebook page.

The petition, signed in January, criticised military action in the southeast, including round-the-clock curfews aimed at rooting out PKK militants who have barricaded themselves in residential areas in southeastern cities.

Hundreds of civilians, security forces and militants have been killed since the conflict with the PKK reignited in July in the worst violence Turkey has seen for 20 years.

The next hearing will be in September, Academics for Peace said.

(Reporting by Ece Toksabay; Editing by David Dolan)

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