More than 100 students from Turkey’s leading universities are facing one to 10 years in prison for illegally protesting and resisting arrest, according to a case filed by the Ankara Public Prosecutor’s Office.
The case was accepted by the Ankara 24th Criminal Court of First Instance, and the 117 students, charged with “damaging property” and “gathering illegally and resisting police who tried to prevent the march,” are set to go on trial soon.
The demonstration garnered immediate attention after 400 students gathered in front of Middle East Technical University, or ODTÜ, on Jan. 5, 2011, to protest for students’ rights. They planned to march to the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, headquarters, but were met by police who used tear gas and pressurized water to hold them back.
The official written accusation presented in the case states that the students threw rocks at the police forces who tried to prevent them from marching to the AKP headquarters.
Police forces then issued a verbal warning for the protesters to stop, according to the accusation, but the students instead allegedly damaged school property and lightly injured police officers by throwing rocks, kicking them and hitting them with sticks.
Some news reports, however, indicated that the students were protecting themselves from the police, and only fought back after police started using the pressurized water.
The accusation states that the suspects were a part of the group from the beginning, and were displaying violent behavior.
Officials were not informed of the protest, thus making it illegal, and stripping the suspects of their “right to gather and use their freedom of speech” as stated in the European Convention on Human Rights and the Turkish Constitution.