An İstanbul prosecutor has indicted 97 students who took part in protests against the appointment by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of a government loyalist as rector of İstanbul’s Boğaziçi University at the beginning of the year, Turkish media outlets reported.
Students, academics and alumni as well as politicians and activists have been protesting the appointment of Melih Bulu, a former unsuccessful parliamentary candidate from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), as the university’s rector, arguing that it is part of Erdoğan’s broader effort to centralize control over universities and that it undercuts academic freedoms and democracy.
The 97 students were detained after police used force to disperse protestors around the university on Feb.1. A total of 108 students were taken into custody in and around the university’s campuses that day and were released after police questioning.
In the 75-page indictment, drafted by the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, the students are accused of violating the law on demonstrations, resisting police orders and violation of pandemic restrictions.
The indictment has been accepted by the İstanbul 32nd High Criminal Court, but a date has not yet been set for the first hearing.
The Boğaziçi protests spread across the country, leading to the detention of hundreds of students and activists, reminiscent of the 2013 Gezi Park protests that erupted against plans to demolish a park in İstanbul before spreading nationally and presenting a direct challenge to Erdoğan’s rule.
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 so far refused to step down.