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Boğaziçi academics apply to top court for reversal of pro-gov’t rector’s appointment

Students demonstrate against the direct appointment Boğaziçi university's new rector by Turkish President, on January 4, 2021 in front of the University in Istanbul. Ozan KOSE / AFP

Some 70 academics from İstanbul’s Boğaziçi University have applied to the Council of State, Turkey’s highest administrative court, for a reversal of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s appointment of a government loyalist as rector of the prestigious school, Deutsche Welle Turkish service reported on Monday.

The academics said in their petition to the court that the appointment of Melih Bulu, a ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) candidate from İstanbul in the 2015 general election, as rector of Boğaziçi by a presidential decree was “unlawful,” demanding the annulment of the decision.

Although the appointment complies with the regulations, academics said, the president, unfortunately, used his discretionary power against the public interest and regardless of the impact his decision would have.

They drew attention to Bulu’s political background and argued that the appointment was “unlawful” since it conflicts with constitutional principles, also underlining that political party members cannot be appointed as rectors, according to the law on the country’s Higher Education Board (YÖK).

Prof. Dr. Yaman Barlas, a lecturer at Boğaziçi’s department of industrial engineering and one of the 70 academics who applied to the top court, told DW Turkish service that they had prepared a detailed petition for the Council of State, which they think will rule to annul Bulu’s appointment.

In early January, Bulu’s appointment created chaos and led to weeks of youth-driven protests that spread to over 30 provinces around the country. The protestors, including mostly students from Boğaziçi and other universities, demand the resignation of Bulu and the appointment of a rector from the university staff after the holding of an election, arguing that the appointment of a pro-government figure undercuts academic freedoms and democracy.

Hundreds of protestors have been detained, 228 were released under judicial supervision and 29 were placed under house arrest while nine have been arrested pending trial since January, according to Turkish media reports.

Bulu, who was a founding member of the ruling AKP’s Sarıyer district branch in İstanbul and worked as deputy chairman of the AKP’s İstanbul provincial chapter, has refused to step down amid protests entering their third month this week.

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