It happened at what was called the "Roma Meeting", an event organised by the government in Istanbul to honour Turkey's gypsies as citizens with equal rights. As the crowd cheered Prime Minister Erdogan entering the auditorium, three students opened a banner
that read "We want free education" to protest the Islamist government's tuition policy. The students, one of whom is a female, were roughed up by the police and beaten by some in the crowd. They spent 19 months in jail before they were finally charged with being members of a terrorist organisation but released pending their trial.
A prosecutor that decided the students were exercising their constitutional rights was reassigned to another district. The new prosecutor demanded a 15-year jail term for membership in a terrorist organisation and spreading terrorist propaganda. It was reported today by Turkish Radio Television (TRT
) that an Istanbul court found
two of the accused, one of whom is a female, guilty on both counts and sentenced them to 8 years and 5 months in prison. The third student was sentenced to 2 year and 2 months in prison for spreading terrorist propaganda.
Turkey's "specially empowered" prosecutors and courts are currently the subject of a debate with claims that the government has lost control of the purpose for which they were created, namely to punish the military and prevent a coup against the Islamist regime. Last February Prime Minister Erdogan had to intervene personally after two high-ranking intelligence officers working under his directions were arrested. The PM is reported to have said that these courts have turned into a monster.
This article has received wide media coverage in Turkey as Canada's light-hearted look at the Turkish justice system, with comparisons of how the two countries handle student protests. Digital Journal has been referred to as one of Canada's most influential news web sites. One reader commented that Canadians won't be able to understand Turkey's "advanced democracy." Another suggested that the two countries should exchange justice ministers, and Canada be paid $10 million dollars for the sacrifice.