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Protesting students face possible 10-year prison sentences

(BIANET/IFEX) - 15 September 2011 - The first hearing of the lawsuit against 117 students of the renowned Middle East Technical University (ODTU) was held on Tuesday 13 September before the Ankara 24th Civil Court of First Instance. The students are on trial regarding the protest 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 on the day Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with the rector of the university. The students demonstrated against the Higher Education Council (YOK) and the government of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and encountered a massive police intervention using tear gas and water cannons.

117 students are now being tried regarding the incidents under allegations of "damaging public property" and "resisting public officials attempting to disperse an unauthorized meeting and demonstration".

Eight of the defendants are currently being detained in the Sincan (Ankara) F Type Prison for 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 crimes.

Defendants Baris Celik, manager of a branch of the Education and Science Workers' Union (Egitim-Sen), Orkun Salih Durmaz and Zeynel Akin said to their defence that their offices were located within the premises of the ODTU campus and that they attended the event in order to support the students in their legal right to protest. Defendant Himmet Sahin, Head of the ODTU Alumni Association, also noted his support for the students and rejected all charges.

ODTU 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 at another protest action carried out three weeks earlier.

The trial was postponed to 14 December. Students from ODTU protested the prosecution of their fellow students in a press release read out in front of the Ankara Courthouse. The students also chanted slogans, such as "We are protesting against the AKP, YOK and the police", and posted a banner.

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