12 people face up to 3 years in prison over Boğaziçi protests

Turkish prosecutors are seeking up to three years in prison for 12 people who took part in protests against the government-appointed rector of İstanbul’s Boğaziçi University for “refusing to disperse despite warnings and the use of force,” Turkish Minute reported, citing local media.

A prolonged series of protests took place at Boğaziçi University after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan appointed Melih Bulu, a founding member of the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) Sarıyer district branch and former deputy chairman of the AKP’s İstanbul provincial chapter, as rector in January 2021.

Tuesday’s hearing was held at the İstanbul 24th Criminal Court of First Instance.

The indictment, drafted by the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, said the defendants unfurled rainbow flags while marching to protest Bulu on March 25, 2021.

The rainbow flag is a symbol of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Pride and social movements.

The prosecutor also said in the indictment that the defendants failed to disperse during the protest despite repeated warnings by law enforcement due to a ban on demonstrations as part of COVID-19 measures, demanding a sentence of up to three years in prison for each of them, DHA said.

According to Article 32 of Law No. 2911 on Meetings and Demonstrations, if people who participate in unlawful meetings or marches do not disperse after orders by security forces and are forcibly dispersed, they are subject to up to three years in prison and a fine of up to TL 30,000 ($1,610).

The trial was adjourned after the lawyers demanded time to prepare a defense.

Shortly after Bulu’s dismissal by a presidential decree in July 2021, the university community demanded that a democratic election be held at the university to elect a new rector, adding that they would not accept the appointment of a rector to replace Bulu, either from within or without the university, since they oppose the appointment of rectors by Erdoğan.

However, Erdoğan on Aug. 20, 2021 appointed İnci, a former deputy to Bulu, as the new rector, despite a 95 percent disapproval rating he received in polls held among the university community to determine possible rector candidates, again prompting outrage among academics and students.

University staff members have been standing with their backs turned to the rectorate building every day in protest of the presidentially appointed rectors.

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