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Turkey jails 45 students over 2012 anti-Erdogan protest Open in fullscreen

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Turkey jails 45 students over 2012 anti-Erdogan protest

Opponents have accused Erdogan of undermining civil liberties and freedom of speech in Turkey [AFP]

Date of publication: 20 September, 2016

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Each student received a 10-month jail term for taking part in a 2012 protest against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at an Ankara university during a visit.
A group of 45 students were jailed by a Turkish court on Tuesday for taking part in a 2012 protest against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at an Ankara university he visited to celebrate a satellite launch, state media reported.

The students were convicted of violating laws on meetings and impeding public officials in their work after they demonstrated against Erdogan's visit to the Middle East Technical University [METU].

Each student received a 10-month sentence from an Ankara court, reported the state-run Anadolu news agency. 

"It is sad to see that prison sentences continue to be the main response of the Turkish government to student criticism and protests," Aykan Erdemir, a former lawmaker from the main opposition Republican People's Party [CHP] said.

Erdemir noted that the government had recently released 38,000 convicts to relieve pressure on Turkey's overcrowded prisons.

During the hearing, lawyers for the defendants insisted that the students had not committed any crimes and called for their acquittal, Anadolu reported.

Judge Avni Mis adjourned the sentencing for three students, whose lawyers made the request, to an unspecified date, the agency said without giving further details.

Police used tear gas and water cannon during the clashes with protesters in December 2012 when Erdogan visited the campus to watch the launch of a Turkish earth observation satellite into orbit aboard a Chinese rocket via a video link.

The clashes caused huge controversy, with the opposition accusing the authorities of using heavy-handed tactics against a relatively minor demonstration.

Erdogan was prime minister at the time of the protest and became president in August 2014, extending his domination of the country.

In June 2013, he survived one of the biggest challenges to his rule when opponents, many of them students, took to the streets nationwide during weeks of protests against the Turkish strongman.

In July 2016, an attempted coup by a faction of the Turkish military was quashed. Tens of thousands of public officials, including teachers, military figures, doctors and civil servants were dismissed - with at least 2,000 judges taken into custody - in the days following the attempted putsch.

Opponents have accused Erdogan of undermining civil liberties and freedom of speech in Turkey, though authorities insist that Turkey is a democratic country and that the measures are intended to punish genuine crimes.

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