Turkish student jailed for attending funeral released after one year

Berkay Ustabaş, a Turkish student sentenced to jail for attending the funeral of a 15-year-old killed during the 2013 Gezi protests, was released on Tuesday by a court in Istanbul after one year in prison, Duvar news site reported.

Berkin Elvan was struck in the head with a teargas canister shot by police during the Gezi Park protests, the biggest anti-government demonstrations seen since Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002, and died after 269 days in a coma. 

Thousands attended the young boy’s funeral in Istanbul, including Ustabaş, a student at Istanbul University’s Department of Sociology.

Ustabaş was arrested in January 2018 when he went to a courthouse in Istanbul to be deposed. He was charged with "organising, leading and participating in unlawful meetings and demonstrations", "attending meetings or demonstrations with arms" and "being a member of an armed terrorist organisation”.

The indictment prepared by prosecutors said Ustabaş had been a part of the group who organised protests before and after the funeral of Elvan. It also mentioned that Ustabaş had joined the Gezi protests and was detained along with 72 others in June 2013.

During a hearing on Wednesday, the court ruled that Ustabaş will be released with a travel ban. The trial will continue as the prosecutors ask Ustabaş to be sentenced over terror charges. 

“My client is imprisoned for a year, his right to education was violated. He is under arrest for a photo where you cannot see his face, and for some DVDs and books. We went to the chief prosecutor’s office ourselves to testify,” his lawyer said in court.