33 people were killed in a suicide bomb attack carried out by ISIS in Suruç district of Şanlıurfa on 20 July 2015. Families and young people who have been campaigning for justice in Suruç have faced intense attacks, while the real perpetrators of the massacre and their political connections have not been revealed in the last 8 years.
The youth organisations who were carrying out the campaign “Justice for Suruç, justice for everyone” to call for the sit-in and press statement to be held on the 8th anniversary of the massacre faced police harassment many times. 46 young people were detained under torture while distributing leaflets 2 days before the commemoration and 6 of the detainees were arrested afterwards.
A total of 154 people were detained in marches and demonstrations with massive police brutality on 20 July 2023, the anniversary of the massacre. 2 more people were arrested among those detained. Thus, the number of people in pre-trial detention for participating in the struggle for justice on the 8th anniversary of the Suruç Massacre increased to 8.
Recently restrictions on communication will reportedly be imposed on young people held in Silivri and Maltepe prisons. This measure includes a complete ban on communication including letters, phone calls and visits.
The indictments of the students have not yet been prepared and it is not clear when their trials will start.
We talked to Attorney Düşün Altuntaş, one of the lawyers of the students arrested for distributing leaflets, about the process so far and the next steps. Altuntaş, who also conveyed the greetings of the students, underlines that they will once again object to the detention in the coming days.
On what grounds and on what charges were the students arrested? Can you tell us what happened on 17-18 July?
The young people gathered in Kadıköy to call for the Suruç commemoration and wanted to distribute leaflets on 17 July. But before they could even start distributing leaflets, they were blockaded by the police and were beaten and detained. A total of 46 students, two of them under the age of 18, were taken to Istanbul Provincial Security Directorate.
6 detained students were arrested on 18 July on the charges of “participating in illegal meeting or demonstration and not dispersing despite a warning” and “resisting to prevent the execution of duty”.
Is this arrest warrant a lawful decision?
These offences are not crimes that can be grounds for arrest; on the contrary, they are crimes for which there is not even a possibility of detention. However, although the reasons for arrest are not present in the case, it is clear that the decision to arrest is not legal, but a political decision.
What do students go through in prison? What are the conditions like?
Prison conditions are not good for students and they face food and hygiene problems. Students also face economic difficulties and ill-treatment. In addition, students who protested against the unlawful conditions in prison were given a disciplinary punishment called the communication penalty. With this penalty, they try to take away the students’ rights to phone calls, and open and closed visits, and impose a kind of isolation on the students.
Unjust arrest warrants mean that many rights of arrested students are violated. What are the rights violations you have observed most heavily in this process?
The arrest of students violates not only their freedom but also their right to education. These students are studying at universities all over Turkey. They violate their right to education and put their future at risk by arresting these students.
In addition, the students’ right to a fair trial is also violated. Arresting students who would have been acquitted of the charges against them and still not preparing the indictment is a violation of the right to a fair trial. Some of the defendants are both working and studying students. They became unable to work with their arrest. This situation has also put them in a difficult economic situation. They are worried about their rent and expenses. They are currently under arrest, but when they are released they will have to fight for their housing rights. Their social rights are also being taken away from them; they cannot do sports, or socialise and have to live an isolated life cut off from the outside world.
Is there anything you would like to add?
One of the students had never participated in any demonstrations before and was detained and arrested while distributing leaflets for the first time. In the past, students used to be intimidated by detentions and lawsuits filed on charges of violating Law No. 2911. Now, students are being intimidated by arrests on these charges. Our defendants are not afraid of these unlawful decisions. They know that they are arrested for a political decision. They are hopeful and send their greetings and love.