Police beat, arrest Boğaziçi University students demanding release of jailed friends

AFP/Bulent KILIC

Turkish police beat and detained several Boğaziçi University students in Istanbul’s Kadıköy district yesterday as they were gathering to protest the arrest of their friends, Turkish media reported.

Images of students being pushed to the ground and handcuffed from behind were circulated by the Turkish media. The police also used plastic bullets and pepper gas against the students. According to the Boğaziçi Solidarity Group at least 35 students were detained for calling on authorities to release students Anıl Akyüz and Şilan Delpata.

Akyüz and Delpata were arrested for participating in protests against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s appointment of Melih Bulu as rector of Boğaziçi University.

The protests began in January and briefly spread in Istanbul and other cities in February, leading to the detention of more than 600 people and some clashes with police.

Critics slammed the appointment of Bulu, saying he was unqualified for the job and that a state-appointed rector harmed the independence of the university.

Bulu was a candidate to become a member of parliament from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the 2015 elections and led a district branch of the AKP in Istanbul. He was also the leader of a team of “virtual raiders” that was established to respond to negative comments online towards Turkish President Erdoğan and the AKP and to spread pro-AKP propaganda.

There have also been claims that Bulu plagiarized his master’s and Ph.D. theses. Following the allegations, the Higher Education Board closed Bulu’s theses to online access.

Akyüz and Delpata were among the 23 students who appeared in court today, and their friends wanted to show solidarity ahead of their hearing.

According to the Duvar English news website, deputies from opposition parties who wanted to observe the trial were barred from entering the courthouse.

An altercation took place when courthouse security attempted to block deputies Gökçe Gökçen and Sera Kadıgil of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Hüda Kaya of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) from entering the courthouse.

Human rights watchdogs including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) have repeatedly called on Turkish authorities to release the protestors.

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