10-Year-Prison Threat for “Revolting” Students

The first hearing of the lawsuit against 117 students of the renowned Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ) was held on Tuesday (13 September) before the Ankara 24th Civil Court of First Instance. The students are on trial on the grounds of the protest action “We are revolting” carried out on 5 January this year. They are facing prison terms of between one year and nine months and 10.5 years.

The protest action was organized the day Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan met with the rector of the university. The students demonstrated against the Higher Education Council (YÖK) and the government of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and encountered a massive police intervention with the use of tear gas and water cannons.

117 students are now being tried on the grounds of the incidents under allegations of “damage of public property” and “resistance against public officials during the dissolving of an unauthorized meeting and demonstration”.

Eight of the defendants are currently being detained in the Sincan (Ankara) F Type Prison by reason of attending demonstrations related to the incidents in Hopa.

The defendants rejected all claims and allegations as stated against them in the indictment. Their lawyers said that they did not commit any crime.

Defendants Barış Çelik, manager of a branch of the Education and Science Workers’ Union (Eğitim-Sen), Orkun Salih Durmaz and Zeynel Akın said to their defence that their offices were located within the premises of the ODTÜ campus and that they attended the event in order to follow the press release and to support the students in their legal right to protest.
“I was not even there”

Defendant Himmet Şahin, Head of the ODTÜ Alumni Association, said that he listened to the press release in order to support the students. Şahin rejected all charges.

ODTÜ student Mustafa Bozkurt is included in the group of defendants although he claims he was not even on campus that day. He indicated that the police saw him in another protest action carried out three weeks earlier and hence he was seen as part of the incidents.

The trial was postponed to 14 December. Students from ODTÜ protested the prosecution of their fellow students with a press release made in front of the Ankara Courthouse. Again, the students chanted slogans like “We are revolting against the AKP, YÖK and the police” and posted a banner featuring “We are revolting”. (AS/VK)

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