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I am writing to you concerning the indictment of 18 students and one academic from Middle East Technical University (METU) in Ankara in connection with their alleged participation in the 9th annual LGBTI Pride Parade on the University’s campus on 10 May 2019. The indictment accepted by Ankara Criminal Court of First Instance No. 39 describes the peaceful pride celebration as an “unlawful assembly” and accuses all nineteen of “failing to disperse despite being warned” under Article 32 of the Law on Meetings and Demonstrations (No. 2911). One of the students is also charged with “insult” under Article 125 of Turkey’s Penal Code, for allegedly “making a hand gesture considered rude” against police officers. The trial is set to begin on 12 November. Some of the students that are facing criminal charges have stated that they did not participate in the Pride march and were just bystanders.
On 10 May, police officers entered the METU campus on the request of the university management to disperse students who had peacefully gathered to celebrate Pride. When students did not disperse, police officers broke up their gathering with pepper spray, plastic bullets and tear gas. Several people were injured, thankfully none seriously. At least 22 people were then detained, among them the nineteen who are currently facing criminal charges.
I call on you to ensure that charges are dropped against the 18 METU students and the academic for their alleged participation in the Pride Parade on 10 May 2019. No one should be prosecuted for exercising their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. I also call on you to ensure that the excessive use of force by the police on campus is promptly, independently and impartially investigated and police officers found to have acted unlawfully are brought to justice.