22-year-old students Ferhat Tüzer, Berna Yılmaz and Utku Aykar are again facing up to 15 years in jail each in the context of the trial based on their demand for "free education". They are charged with "membership of an illegal organization".
Tüzer and Yılmaz stand trial on the grounds of a banner reading "We want free education and we will get it" posted during a speech of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the Romani meeting in Istanbul on 14 March 2010. Aykar is on trial because he distributed related leaflets.
The three students were taken into custody immediately and arrested by the Istanbul Special Authority 10th High Criminal Court. They stand accused of "membership of an illegal organization" according to Article 5 of the Anti-Terror Law (TMK) on the grounds of their alleged membership in the Party and Revolutionary Front for the Liberation of the Turkish People (DHKP-C) and supposed propaganda for the organization.
After 19 months in detention, Tüzer and Yılmaz were released pending trial on 6 October 2011.
The former prosecutor of the case Kasım İlimlioğlu plead for the release and acquittal of the students at the hearing on 24 May 2011. He evaluated the incident within the scope of freedom of expression as guaranteed by the Constitution.
İlimoğlu furthermore claimed that the Constitution also mentioned the possibility of peaceful meetings and demonstrations without arms without prior permission.
The new prosecutor Adem Özcan referred to allegations of "membership in an illegal organization" and demanded prison sentenced of between 7.5 and 15 years for the three students in his final speech presented at the Thursday hearing (8 March).
Özcan reasoned his view on the basis of information obtained by the Police Directorate related to a "campaign of the DHKP/C terrorist organization to be launched on 30 September 2009 called 'America, get out of here; this is our homeland - Dev Genç'. Subsections of the organization will initiate a campaign with the demand to lift education fees and provide education free of charge".
"It was understood from the evidence obtained by the end of the prosecution that the defendants attended more than one activities organized by the People's Front and Youth Federation as sub-structures of the DHKP/C (...); they attended these illegal demonstrations upon the directives and calls made via press and publication outlets publishing the agenda of the DHKP/C organization; in this aspect the defendants committed the offence of being a member of an armed organization considering the demonstrations as a whole", the prosecutor claimed.
Lawyer Taylan Tanay emphasized that both prosecutors presented different speeches based on the same occasions and the same evidence.
"Prosecutor İlimlioğlu said that the legal actions the students participated in were a constitutional right whereas Prosecutor Özcan reached the conclusion of the offence of membership in an illegal organization by reason of the same actions. First these actions were assessed as a 'democratic right' and now they are deemed 'terrorist activities'".
"According to the evaluation of Prosecutor Özcan, all actions joined by journalists, students, union members, workers or HES opponents can be seen within the scope of 'terror crimes' and the whole society can be defined as 'terrorists'", Tanay criticized.
The lawyer indicated that the new plea was politically motivated.
Court President Aytekin Özanlı postponed the case to 31 May 2012 to allow time for the preparation of the defence.
Prosecutor İlimoğlu was one of the special authority prosecutors in charge of the Ergenekon trial in Istanbul. He had accused the other prosecutors handling the Ergenkon investigation of "behaving in contrary to human rights". On 20 June 2011, İlimoğlu was deprived of his special authority upon the Summer Decree of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) and appointed to the Büyükçekmece (Istanbul) Prosecution. (AS)