20 students given 10 months in prison, 7 fined TL 6,000 for “spreading terrorism propaganda” over anti-war protest on campus; 3 acquitted

CANSU PİŞKİN, İSTANBUL

The sixth and final hearing in the trial of 30 students from Boğaziçi University on the charge of “disseminating terrorism propaganda” for staging an anti-war protest on campus took place on 31 January 2020.

Issuing their verdict after hearing the students’ final defense statements in response to the prosecution’s final opinion, the 32nd High Criminal Court of Istanbul sentenced 20 students to 10 months in prison, seven students to judicial fine of TL 6,000 and acquitted three students.

P24 monitored the hearing, which began an hour and a half later than scheduled. Defendants Kültigin Demirlioğlu, Denizhan Eren, Tevger Uzay Tulay, Muhammet Bilgin, Emir Eray Karabıyık, İbrahim Musab Curabas, Mete Ulutaş, İdil Ügüt, Esen Deniz Üstündağ, Ekim Devrim Çapartaş, Sevde Öztürk, Bektaş Deneri, İrem Gerkuş, Damla Uyar, Yaren Tuncer, Enes Karakaş, Ozan Yaman and Oğuzcan Ünlü were in attendance with their lawyers.

HDP Deputies Züleyha Gülüm, Hüda Kaya and Ahmet Şık, CHP Deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu, Academics for Peace, Gregory Cherlin of Rutgers University on behalf of the American Mathematical Society and Ulla Karhumaki from Manchester University on behalf of the London Mathematical Society also monitored the hearing. There wasn’t enough space in the courtroom to seat the large audience and some had to remain standing throughout the hearing.

Reiterating the final opinion delivered during the previous hearing, the prosecutor requested the court to convict the students of “making propaganda for a terrorist group.”

The defendants then went on to deliver their final defense statements in response to the final opinion.

Restating what he told at the previous hearing, Demirlioğlu said that he wasn’t guilty, that he was being victimized by this case and that he does not agree with the slogans mentioned in the indictment. He requested to be acquitted.

Defendants Muhammet Bilgin, Emin Eray, Ibrahim Musab Curabas, Mete Ulutaş, İdil Ügüt, Esen Deniz Üstündağ, Ekim Devrim Çapartaş, Sevde Öztürk, Bektaş Deneri, Damla Uyar, Enes Karakaş, Ozan Yaman and Oğuzcan Ünlü also reiterated their previous defense statements and asked to be acquitted. Denizhan Eren, Tevger Uzay Tulay, Bektaş Deneri, İrem Gerkuş, Yaren Tuncer said they no longer accepted deferment of their sentences and asked to be acquitted.

Representing all defendants, lawyer Metin Sezgin addressed the court. He said the authorities were disturbed by the political opinion the students voiced to the point where the president even targeted the students in one of his speeches. “It is clear by this that the government uses the judiciary to conduct its politics. The ECtHR would find a violation of rights in this case, just like it had in the cases of Demirtaş and Kavala,” Sezgin said. 

Evidence in the case file was obtained unlawfully, Ekin Baltaş, another lawyer representing all defendants, said. Baltaşs said the investigation had begun over alleged terrorist group membership, but the charge was later changed to “propaganda” once it was discovered that nothing would come out of the initial charge. Baltaş asked the court to acquit all the accused students.

Medine Turan Taylak, another lawyer representing all defendants, said the final opinion failed to prove any of the claims put forward in the indictment and she requested acquittal.

Lawyer Merüç Eyüboğlu said the objective and subjective elements of the offense were absent, adding, “the act [of staging an anti-war protest] falls within the scope of freedom of expression.”

Yaren Tuncer’s lawyer Aynur Tuncel Yazgan also asserted that the evidence against the students was obtained unlawfully and requested her client’s acquittal.

Lawyer Yıldız İmrek criticized the prosecutor’s reiteration of their final opinion, which was submitted to the court before the introduction of the judicial reform package. “This trial in itself is the punishment of the students for using their right to peace. There isn’t any evidence to prove the claims in the file.”

Representing all of the defendants, lawyer Songül Beydilli said the final opinion was biased and subjective: “It declares that the Turkish delight distributors were the victims while the ones who criticized them were the culprits. We demand acquittal.”

Lawyer Tora Pekin, representing Oğuzcan Ünlü and Muhammet Bilgin, said: “There isn’t a single word the students voiced that may entail a call to violence. But the case file does have violence in it. The president’s remarks after which the investigation began contains violence. Raids, arrests and torture. An indictment that is not based on any evidence contains violence. I hope that your court panel will break this cycle of violence.”

In their last words before the court announced its verdict, the students asked to be acquitted.

Issuing their verdict following a recess, the court ruled to acquit Kültigin Demirlioğlu, Onur Eren and İbrahim Musab Curabas but sentenced Sevde Öztürk, Enes Karakaş, Ekim Devrim Çapartaş, Oğuzcan Ünlü, İdil Ügüt, Muhammet Bilgin, Elif Nur Aybaş, Kübra Sağır, Agah Suat Atay, Ali İmran Şirin, Emir Eray Karabıyık, Hamza Dinçer, Mustafa Ada Kök, Zülküf İbrahim Erkok, Yusuf Noyan Öztürk, Ozan Yaman, Esen Deniz Üstündağ, Mete Ulutaş, Berke Aydoğan and İsmail Gürler to 10 months in prison each. The court deferred their sentences. The court also sentenced Bektaş Deneri, Tevger Uzay Tulay, Denizhan Eren, İrem Gerkuş, Deniz Yılmaz, Damla Uyar and Şükran Yaren Tuncer to 10 months in prison but since they did not accept deferment, their sentences were commuted to a judicial fine of TL 6,000.

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