Turkey: Activists in more than 40 countries demand acquittal of students facing three years in jail for celebrating Pride

Ahead of a court ruling expected on Friday in the case of 18 Turkish students and one academic who are being prosecuted for taking part in a Pride parade in May 2019, Nils Muižnieks, Amnesty International’s Europe Director said:

“Activists around the world have joined Amnesty International in calling for the acquittal of 18 students and an academic at the Middle East Technical University (METU) in Ankara. They are facing up to three years in prison simply for organising and participating in an entirely peaceful Pride march on campus in May 2019 that the University management had unlawfully banned.

“Shockingly, this celebration of love and solidarity by these young people was met with police using pepper spray, plastic bullets and tear gas. Not only were their fundamental rights violated that day, but they have been dragged through the courts for more than two years with the threat of jail dangling over their heads.

“The ban on the Pride march lacked legal grounds and these students who defied it had their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly violated. On Friday, there can only be one just outcome: their wholesale acquittal.”

BACKGROUND

The 19 individuals are charged with “participating in an unlawful assembly” and “failing to disperse despite being warned”. This is despite the fact that in February 2019, the Ankara Administrative Appeals Court had lifted the blanket ban prohibiting all LGBTI+ activities in Ankara which had been introduced under the state of emergency. Nevertheless University management relied on this historic ban as the legal basis to stop the annual campus-based Pride march from going ahead.

In June 2020, another administrative court in Ankara overturned the university’s unlawful ban, confirming that it had no legal basis.

The case of the METU students was part of Amnesty International’s flagship Write for Rights campaign in 2020. More than 445,000 people have demanded their acquittal.

See here for more information about the case

For more information contact Stefan Simanowitz on [email protected]

On 8 October, the hearing will be monitored by @aforgutu. The newly established LGBTI+ rights organisation @unikuir will also share updates