A total of 70,000 students who have either been convicted of a crime or are in pretrial detention are currently in Turkey’s jails, while more than 100,000 students are facing trial, according to a story in the Cumhuriyet daily on Tuesday.
When students are arrested, they are first suspended from school and if convicted, they are expelled. If these students take the university entrance exams while in jail and are successful, they are given the right to freeze enrollment for two years.
An academic who follows the trials of students in jail and who requested anonymity told Cumhuriyet that most of the students are tried in high criminal courts and are thus given long prison sentences.
“Even if they are given the minimum sentence, it starts at five years. In the trials I have followed, there are students who were given nine-and-a-half years, 12 years and 16 years, and some of these sentences were approved by the Supreme Court of Appeals,” said the academic.
When asked about the charges the students face, the academic said they are more or less the same and politically motivated.
Recalling the recent arrests of nine students from Boğaziçi University on terror charges for opposing an ongoing Turkish military operation in the Afrin region of Syria, the academic said many students are jailed for being against war.
On March 19 a group of students at Boğaziçi University protested other students who had set up a stand and distributed Turkish delight in memory of Turkish soldiers killed during the operation in Afrin. Police identified the protestors and detained 15 of them in separate operations. Nine of the students were arrested, while six of them were released on judicial probation on April 3.
In a speech on March 21, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan targeted the Boğaziçi students who were involved in the Afrin protest and described them as “communists, traitors and terrorists” while he called the youths who had set up stands for slain soldiers “believers, local and national.”
Families want release of Boğaziçi students
Families of the nine jailed Boğaziçi University students held a news conference on Tuesday during which they asked for the release of their children.
In their press statement, the families said there is a big blockade on the university and that the imprisonment of the university’s students is an act of intimidation.
“Our children have been taken as hostages. Their place is not Bakırköy Prison or Silivri Prison. Our children’s place is the campus of Boğaziçi University. We are asking for state administrators for an apology.”
An academic from Boğaziçi University, Faruk Birtek, said the arrested students have nothing to do with terrorism.
“They are all my students. I feel devastated. Their innocence will be revealed. I want to be with them. If we are together in the classroom, I want to be together with them in jail as well,” Birtek said at the news conference.