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Students receive 15-month suspended prison sentences; case of detained protesters goes to trial

(BIANET/IFEX) - The Sariyer (Istanbul) 3rd Criminal Court of First Instance has handed down a 15-month prison sentence to 18 students from Istanbul Technical University (ITU). The students were convicted for protesting a visit by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the university's opening ceremonies several years ago. The students were accused of shouting slogans critical of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) during the prime minister's visit, as well as posting politically controversial banners reading, "The ITU madrasah", "An AKP government movie", "The great invasion" and "The keynote speaker of the İTU opening ceremony, the rectorship is not a branch of the AKP".

The trial began in 2008 and the students were convicted on 5 November 2010 on charges of contravening Law No. 2911, which regulates meetings and demonstrations, but the sentences were suspended because the defendants have no prior criminal record. However, the sentences will be reinstated if the students are caught committing a similar offence in the next five years.

Meanwhile, in another case, Ferhat Tuzer and Berna Yilmaz, two members of the Youth Federation, have been held in detention for eight months. They were arrested for displaying a banner reading, "We want free education, and we will get it", during a speech that Erdogan gave in Istanbul on 14 March.

The trial against Tuzer and Yilmaz started on 30 September before an Istanbul criminal court. Prior to the first hearing, Tuzer's mother called on the Prime Minister and President Abdullah Gul, saying, "I am just as much a prisoner as my son. He did not hit anybody, he did not steal. He wanted free education, which is the right of any student. My son experienced injustice. They should let him go free. I am calling on the president, the prime minister and the president of the council for higher education with a plea from a mother. Please end this injustice."

Tuzer and Yilmaz have been charged with "membership in an illegal organization" and, if convicted, they could face between six and 15 years in jail. The next hearing is scheduled for 14 December.

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