Turkish prosecutors are seeking up to three years in prison for seven students over a poster depicting Islam’s holiest site with LGBT imagery, Agence France-Press reported on Friday, citing local media.
The seven students, two of them in detention, are accused of “inciting hatred and animosity,” the private NTV broadcaster reported. They face jail terms between one to three years.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s appointment of a loyalist as rector of İstanbul’s elite Boğaziçi University created a stir and had led to weeks of protests since the start of the year.
The dispute over the rector intensified after protesters hung a controversial poster near his office.
Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu called them “LGBT freaks,” while Erdoğan distanced his party’s supporters from what he called “LGBT youth.”
Erdoğan’s comments were condemned by the United States.
“We are concerned by detentions of students and other demonstrators and strongly condemn the anti LGBTQIA rhetoric surrounding the demonstrations,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.
Homosexuality has been legal throughout modern Turkey’s history, but İstanbul Pride has been banned since 2016.
Boğaziçi University’s LGBT club was disbanded after the incident, but the rector insisted that he “respects every identity.”