Minister on harassed student: I won’t allow pressure on police over a woman with a Gülenist father

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Süleyman Soylu

Turkish Minister of Interior Affairs Süleyman Soylu said on Wednesday that he would not let the police be pressured over a university student whose apparent sexual assault by a police officer during a protest on Saturday was caught on camera

Defending Ankara law enforcement, Soylu reiterated a police statement issued on Monday claiming that the student’s father is a purged Gülenist and her brother is linked to the far-left Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C).

The minister tweeted that he would not allow anyone to pressure the police force and added that such rough handling was the result of resisting the police during an illegal protest.

The young woman on Tuesday filed a criminal complaint against the police officer.

Speaking to the Artı Gerçek news website on Monday, the student, Merve Demirel, said she was sexually harassed by a police officer during a protest demanding the release of lawyers under arrest in Turkey. The moments of the alleged assault were captured on camera.

However, in a statement on Monday, the Ankara Police Department rejected the harassment allegations and even accused the woman of being the daughter of a father who has links to the Gülen movement.

The Gülen movement is labeled a terrorist organization by the Turkish government, which holds the movement responsible for a failed coup attempt in July 2016. The movement strongly denies any involvement in the abortive putsch.

In the statement posted on its website, the Ankara Police Department said Demirel’s father was a teacher who was removed from his post in 2016 due to his ties to the Gülen movement. He was fired because he was a member of a Gülen-linked labor union, according to the statement.

When asked on Tuesday about the Ankara Police Department’s claim concerning her father, Demirel said: “He [her father] has never been prosecuted. He was just removed from his post and then submitted a petition to [Parliament’s] Justice Commission about his ordeal. That is it. He was neither detained nor arrested [over Gülen links].”

The Turkish government launched a massive crackdown on alleged or real members of the movement following the coup attempt under the pretext of an anti-coup fight as a result of which more than 150,000 people were removed from state jobs.

Demirel was accompanied by opposition deputies Sezgin Tanrıkulu and Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, who are also rights activists, when she filed her complaint at the Ankara Courthouse.

In the complaint Demirel claimed she was intentionally harassed by the police officer who was trying to detain her. The woman attached the photos of the alleged sexual assault to her petition.

Demirel asked for the identification of the police officer as well as his arrest for violating his duties as a public officer.

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