The third hearing of the trial against Ankara University student Berna Yılmaz and Trakya University student Ferhat Tüzer, members of the Youth Federation, was held at the Beşiktaş (Istanbul) Courthouse on Monday (23 May). Both students are facing prison terms of up to 15 years because they posted a banner reading "We want free education" during the speech of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the Romani Meeting in Istanbul on 14 March 2010.
The prosecutor requested the release and the acquittal of students Yılmaz and Tüzer. However, the court board decided to keep them both in detention and postponed the trial to 6 October 2011.
The Monday hearing was monitored by executives of the Confederation of Trade Unions of Public Employees (KESK) and the Education and Science Workers' Union (Eğitim-Sen), representatives and members of various democratic mass organizations, poet Ataol Behmramoğlu and author and script writer Bilgesu Erenus.
"Protest is a constitutional right"
Defence lawyer Taylan Tanay spoke to bianet after the hearing. He said that the Public Prosecutor demanded his clients' acquittal in his final plea.
Tanay explained that the prosecutor referred to Articles 24, 25 and 33 of the Constitution (freedom of conscience; freedom of thought and opinion; freedom of association). The prosecutor underlined that in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights it was a constitutional right to organize and attend meetings and demonstrations. In the prosecutor's opinion, both students made use of their rights accordingly.
Therefore, Tüzer and Yılmaz could not be punished for these reasons the prosecutor concluded and requested their acquittal.
Tanay continued, "The court allowed us time for the final speech of defence and decided to continue the detention [of Tüzer and Yılmaz]. The court postponed the case to 6 October 2011".
"The Public Prosecutor demanded both their release and their acquittal but the court did not decide according to this demand. This is how this weird and unlawful situation occurred".
"Politically motivated decision"
Summarizing the defence speeches of Yılmaz and Tüzer, lawyer Tanay reported that both students claimed that they only asked for education free of charge and that this could not be accounted for as a crime.
"Just as the public prosecutor declared, they fully used their constitutional rights and asked for free education within the principle of a social state. Applying Article 33 of the Constitution in particular, a student has the right to be active in an association. The terror the students are exposed to by this trial is unbelievable".
"These students will remain in detention for at least 20 months only because they posted a banner. This situation cannot be explained by the law; this decision is nothing but politically motivated", Tanay criticized.
"This trial was opened because of a protest against the Prime Minister on 14 March . In fact, this is a trial that has been opened directly by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan", the lawyer said. (EKN/VK)