Top Turkish court: Disciplinary penalty against student over 'trustee rector' remark violation of rights

Turkey's Constitutional Court has ruled that a university student's criticism of the rector with the expression of “trustee rector” cannot serve as the basis of a disciplinary penalty and suspension from the school.

This file photo shows the rector's office of Mersin University in southern Turkey.

Duvar English

Turkey's Constitutional Court has ruled that a university had violated the rights of a student by suspending her from school for one month for participating in a press statement in critical of the rector.

The top court said that Mersin University student İlknur Uyan's right to education had been violated and ordered the state to pay her 13,500 liras in compensation, according to reporting by the daily Cumhuriyet. The court said that the applicant had merely used her right to freedom of speech.

On Nov. 30, 2017, a group of Mersin University students held a press statement in front of the Mersin Journalists' Association. The students demonstrated against the university management's decision to probe another group of students who had protested the 2015 ISIS suicide attack that took place at the Ankara train station.

In the press statement, the students said: “We know that the rector's office [of Mersin University] and the police are not actually concerned about the university, but their issue is about a disruption against the political rulership. The trustee rector came third in the rector elections and then was appointed to Mersin University by the president. The rector is concerned with taking on the political rulership's job which wants to create a youth who do not question and who generate information that serve the interests of capital, not society.”

Afterwards, the university management launched an investigation into the students that participated in the press statement on the grounds of “using remarks damaging the reputation” of the rector. Following the investigation, Uyan received a disciplinary penalty and a one-month suspension from the university on Feb. 23, 2018.

Uyan took the university's decision to the Mersin 2nd Administrative Court. When her application was rejected, she this time applied to an appeals court, which also gave a decision in favor of the university. On April 14, 2022, Uyan filed an application with the Constitutional Court.

"The applicant was punished with a disciplinary penalty of suspension from the university due to her use of the freedom of expression, and was not able to use her right to education...The disciplinary penalty of suspension from the university given to the applicant did not meet a vital need and was not proportionate," the top court said in its ruling in favor of Uyan.