University students in Malatya (south-eastern Turkey) were sentenced to up to 13 years in jail because they were found guilty of "membership in an illegal organization" and "spreading propaganda for an illegal organization". The charges stemmed from their attending demonstrations on 1 May and 8 March, the International Women's Day, purchasing tickets for a concert of the Turkish band Grup Yorum and attending a press release related to the opening of mass graves.
The final hearing was held before the Malatya 3rd High Criminal Court on Wednesday (1 February). The session was observed by Republican Peoples' Party (CHP) Tunceli MP Hüseyin Aygün and CHP Malatya MP Veli Ağbaba the latter who said, "Not even the judge was satisfied with this decision".
Ağbaba announced subsequent to the hearing, "After the decision was given, Court President Hayrettin Kısa said, 'We are not happy with the punishment but we apply the law. There are efforts to amend the criminal law. I hope the changes will be in your favour. This is not the business of the court but of the parliament'".
The indictment was prepared by Special Authority Prosecutor Ömer Tetik. The students were indicted according to Article 314/2 of the Turkish Criminal Law (TCK) ("membership in a criminal organization") and Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terror Law (TMK) ("propaganda").
Under allegations of "membership of the Party and Revolutionary Front for the Liberation of the Turkish People (DHKP-C) terrorist organization" and "propaganda for a criminal organization" the students received the following sentences:
Kubilay Uçucu 10 years 10 months; Erkin Kocaman 11 years 10 months; Yusuf Yılmaz and Uğur Pektaş 9 years 2 months; Ayça Kılınç 8 years 9 months; Sevcan Göktaş 13 years.
The students have been detained in the Malatya E Type Prison since 6 June 2011. Only Kılınç was released after the hearing. The case file was forwarded to the Court of Appeals.
Hatice Harman was prosecuted together with the six university students because she carried a photograph of her deceased daughter in a demonstration on the International Women's Day on 8 March. Her daughter Feride Harman died as the result of a hunger strike in protest against the transfer to F type prisons in 2002. Un-detained defendant Hatice Harman was acquitted of charges of "membership of an illegal organization".
"Why were not all of them released?"
In a statement made to bianet, deputy Ağbaba claimed that there was "no concrete evidence for the membership of an organization" and commented, "This trial was obscure; justice is out of joint".
Ağbaba criticized, "This sort of shame is going to be continued until the TMK and special authority courts will have been removed. While the excavation of a [mass] grave in Diyarbakır is still being continued, students are sentenced to jail because they made an announcement calling for the opening of mass graves. They are being deprived of their right to education. Concrete steps should urgently be taken with regard to the judiciary".
"Why was only one of them released? They stand accused of the same offences with the same evidence. All of the students should have been released". (AS)