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RIGHTS > Students sentenced to eight years for banner in Turkey

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News

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Two students who staged a protest in 2010 to demand free education were sentenced to eight years and five months in prison yesterday by a Turkish court for "membership in a terrorist organization."

The students, Berna Yılmaz and Ferhat Tüzer, unfurled a banner reading: “We want free education, we will get it,” during a meeting between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Roma citizens on March 14, 2010.

Yılmaz and Tüzer have already spent one and a half year in jail under arrest. They were released in October 2011 after the previous prosecutor of the case, Kasım İlimoğlu, requested the students’ acquittal, arguing their act was constitutional and fell within the limits of the freedom of expression.

However, prosecutor Adem Özcan, who replaced İlimoğlu following his appointment to the case, demanded on March 9 that the students be sentenced on charges of membership of a terrorist organization. Tüzer, a mechanical engineering student at Trakya University, Yılmaz, an anthropology student at Ankara University, as well as another student, Utku Aykar, opened a banner demanding free education during Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s meeting with the Roma community in March 2010.

Tüzer and Yılmaz were subsequently arrested but later released after remaining behind bars for 18 months, while Aykar was tried without arrest.

Aykar was acquitted of being a member in a terrorist organization but was still sentenced to two years and two months for his part in the protest.

June/08/2012

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