The Advent of the Trials of University Students in Istanbul


By Margaret Owen, Door Tenant at 9 Bedford Row, London

On 4th October, I will fly to Istanbul, with Turkish-speaking solicitor, Ali Has, to observe and report on the trials of university students, under Turkey’s draconian anti-terror law.(Article 314/2).

The trials will take place on 5th and 6th of October at the 14th Criminal Court in Istanbul, a court specifically established to try cases under the anti-terror laws.

Hundreds of university students and even high school children (many, but not all are Kurds) as young as 12 have been arrested and detained, charged with being members of, or “supporting” an armed terrorist organisation. Officials have not disclosed the exact number of young people detained. There are serious concerns about the long delays before detainees are brought before the courts, and grave concerns about the abuse of minors in prison. It can take years before a sentence is ever reached.

The international community is now well aware of the arrests, detentions, prosecutions and convictions of thousands of political prisoners, who languish for long years in Turkey’s overcrowded gaols.

Many human rights lawyers have been active in reporting on the rapid increase in prosecutions and arrests of lawyers, journalists, academics, teachers, writers, trade unionists, politicians, mayors and women’s rights activists, since the scuppering of the peace process with the Kurds, in 2013. These arrests have increased in the aftermath of the attempted coup this summer, when prosecutors and judges have also been suspended from their posts, and charged under the anti-terror laws.

It seems that any criticism of President Erdogan is regarded as an act of treason. Moreover, in the last week, more media outlets have been raided and closed down. Freedom of speech or assembly does not exist.

However, deeply worrying, and far less known, even within Turkey, is the fact that hundreds of students have been arrested, on the flimsiest of evidence, charged with supporting a terrorist organisation.

Unlike the academics, teachers, lawyers, trade unionists and journalists, these young people have no organisation that links them to international or European organisations of students that can draw attention to their plight. I am told that some students have been on remand, in prison for years, facing sentences of 20 years, yet still await trial.

It is vitally important that the violation of the rights of these young people is given broad attention. The closure of so many media outlets has kept this issue under a blanket of silence. Young people’s rights to education has been interrupted, and many have suffered years of imprisonment, both of which are impacting irrevocably and disastrously on their futures.

This is why I and Ali Has will be observing the trials of these students this week – three women and three men.

All were arrested in dawn raids at their homes in January this year by the special operations terror police (SWAT) and have been in F Type prisons. Only two have been released on bail after 6 months in detention.

Here are their names:

HEJA TURK, born in Mardin

CAGRI KURT, born in Van

JULIDE YAZIXI, also born in İzmit

HIZYAR AYDIN, also born in Mardin

ALI SARI, also born in Ağrı

According to the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) + Article 3712 of the Anti-Terror Law, their sentences could be increased from the 5 -10 year bracket by half again.


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