Turkish police release 21 students apprehended after Istanbul protests

Police have released 21 students detained following protests against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s decision to appoint a long-standing political ally as head of the prestigious Boğaziçi University, news website Diken reported on Friday.

Following questioning at a courthouse in Istanbul, public prosecutors referred two students for arrest and released 20 under judicial controls, Diken said. Another was freed without conditions.

Hundreds of students began demonstrations on Monday after a presidential decree was used to override an established voting process and appoint Melih Bulu to the role of university rector.

Bulu, who stood unsuccessfully as a Justice and Development Party (AKP) candidate at the 2015 general election, has been criticised for lacking the academic credentials to head one of the country’s leading higher education institutions.

Police raids on Tuesday and Wednesday seized more than 35 people allegedly involved in the protest movement, a crackdown that saw officers puncture walls to gain access to students’ homes.

At least four of those detained have since reported abuse in police custody.

“I was attacked by four female police officers after telling them not to take footage of my friend during the health checks as part of my detention,” Diken cited one student as saying. “My hair was pulled, I was kicked, and my shoes and socks were removed.”

“(Police officers) wanted to conduct a strip search by pulling down my trousers without removing my other clothes … I objected, but the search was made without my consent,” another student said, according to Diken.