An Istanbul court has given jail terms to 27 students from Istanbul’s prestigious Boğaziçi University for taking part in a protest against Turkey’s military offensive in northern Syria, daily Evrensel reported on Jan. 31. Three others were acquitted in the case.
An investigation was launched against the students after they in March of 2018 staged a protest against other students who organized a rally in support of the military campaign.
On March 19, 2018, a group of students distributed Turkish delight (“lokum”) on the Boğaziçi campus in support of the Turkish army’s operation into Afrin dubbed “Operation Olive Branch.” At this point, another group unfurled a banner reading “Invasion, massacre cannot be marked with Turkish delight.”
Once the issue reflected on the social media, the police stormed the dormitories and detained the anti-war students, 14 of whom were put under custody on charges of “spreading terrorist propaganda.” Following a court hearing on June 6, 2018, the 14 students were also released pending trial.
The final hearing of the case took place on Jan. 31 at the Çağlayan Courthouse. The Istanbul 32nd Heavy Penal Court sentenced 27 students each to 10 months in jail and acquitted three others. The court postponed the execution of the sentence for 20 students, and imposed an administrative fine of 6,000 Turkish Liras ($1,000) on each of the remaining seven students as they did not accept the “guilty” charges and therefore did not consent to a delay in sentencing.
According to the Turkish Penal Code, when the pronouncement of a sentence is delayed, this sentence does not have a legal effect on the accused and does not appear in their criminal record – but only provided that they are not charged with any other crimes during a five year probation period. Also, a delayed sentence means the defendant has accepted the charges against them and cannot take their case to an appeals court.
At the time of the incident, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had strongly condemned the students’ actions, calling them “terrorists.” “We will not give a chance to those who terrorize school gardens,” he said, promising to identify the protesters from camera footage and punish them.
Founded in the 19th century as Robert College, Boğaziçi University is considered a bastion of secular and Western-orientated education in Turkey.