Students released amid row over protest rights

Students released amid row over protest rights

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Students released amid row over protest rights

The anti-terror unit of the Ankara police launched raids at a number of students’ houses and detained 10 of them for being members of terrorist organizations. AA photo

Ten university students who were taken into custody for protesting Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s recent visit to the Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ) were all released by a court in Ankara on Dec.22 while row between academics and politicians continue over the right to protest.

The decision to release the 10 students from ODTÜ, Ankara University, Hacettepe University and Gazi University came despite the demand from a prosecutor that they be arrested. Despite refusing the demand for the students’ arrest, the judge did ban them from travelling abroad.

The students’ testimony to the judge on duty late on Dec.22 was followed by a delegation led by Ankara Bar Association President Metin Feyzioğlu, in addition to their own lawyers. Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputies Birgül Ayman Güler and Levent Gök were in front of the courthouse in order to show support for the students.

“I came here not in my capacity as a politician or a lawmaker, but rather in my capacity as a professor of the students under custody,” Güler said.

On Dec. 21, the anti-terror unit of the Ankara police launched raids at students’ houses early in the morning, upon an order from the Ankara prosecutor authorized for terror-related crimes. The prosecutor charged the students with being members of terrorist organizations and committing crimes on behalf of a terrorist organization.

Erdoğan’s visit

A group of students protested the visit of Erdoğan on Dec. 18, when he came to the ODTÜ campus to attend the Göktürk-2 satellite launch ceremony. Police used pepper gas and pressurized water against the demonstrating students, who were prevented from approaching the ceremony hall.

“What a shame! Shame on the professors who raised those students. Instructors first have to teach their students how to be respectful. We were also students once but never resorted to violence. Those students burned car tires, threw stones and sticks, but you can never see someone criticizing them and their attitude. Is violence and terror a protest? ” Erdoğan said in a speech at the Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEİK) general assembly in Ankara.

Meanwhile, Culture Minister Ertuğrul Günay, known for his social democratic background, disapproved the protest against the prime minister less harshly.

“Of course, protesting is a right for everybody, and not everybody has to like this government. One can say that one doesn’t like something, but there is a place, time and a proper degree,” Günay said in an interview yesterday.

CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, delivering a speech in İzmir, lent support to ODTÜ protesters yesterday, implicitly criticizing the government’s attitude. “Modernity is possible through university freedom and through protection of university youth,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.