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Court removes judicial probation for 52 Boğaziçi students standing trial over protests

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Judicial probation measures imposed by a court on 52 students from the İstanbul-based Boğaziçi University who were indicted for taking part in protests against the appointment of a loyalist rector at the beginning of 2021 have been removed, the Birgün daily reported on Monday.

The İstanbul 49th Criminal Court of First Instance ruled to remove the judicial probation measures including a travel ban on the 52 students at the fifth hearing of their trial on Monday. The students are charged with violating the law on assemblies and demonstrations and with deprivation of liberty on accusations that they prevented the security guards at the university from performing their jobs during the protests.

They face a prison sentence of between 30 months and 18 years.

The students continued to make their defense statements during Monday’s hearing and asked for their acquittal of the charges.

Lawyers for the students said the trial was politically motivated, demanding removal of the judicial probation on their clients and their acquittal.

The prosecutor argued against acquittal but agreed to the elimination of judicial probation.

The trial was adjourned until July 4.

A prolonged series of protests broke out at Boğaziçi University after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan appointed Melih Bulu, a founding member of the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) Sarıyer district branch and former deputy chairman of the AKP’s İstanbul provincial branch, as rector in early January 2021.

Hundreds of people were detained for participating in the youth-driven demonstrations that spread to over 30 provinces across Turkey after Bulu’s appointment.

Following the dismissal of Bulu in July 2021, Professor Naci İnci was appointed acting rector despite a 95 percent disapproval rating he received in polls held among the university community to determine possible rector candidates.

Although 17 candidates emerged with high rates of approval, the president appointed İnci in August 2021, again prompting outrage among academics and students.

Protestors say that appointment of a loyalist rector to Boğaziçi is  a part of Erdoğan’s broader effort to centralize control over universities and that it undercuts academic freedoms and democracy.

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