ISTANBUL (Reuters) – A Turkish court on Wednesday released 14 college students who are on trial for opposing Turkey’s incursion in northern Syria against the Kurdish YPG militia, private broadcaster CNN Turk said.
The students at Istanbul’s Bogazici University were detained in March on charges of spreading terrorist propaganda shortly after Turkish forces stormed the town of Afrin in north Syria.
They had staged a protest on campus against other students who organized a rally in support of the military campaign.
Turkey launched its two-month operation into Afrin in January to drive the YPG militia from its Syrian border. Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist organization and says it is an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has led an insurgency on Turkish soil since the 1980s.
Six other students, who have not been detained, are also on trial with the 14 released on Wednesday. The next session in the case will be held in October.
At the time of the arrests, President Tayyip Erdogan strongly condemned the students’ actions, calling them terrorists. “We will not give a chance to those who terrorize school gardens,” he said, promising to identify the protesters from camera footage and punish them.
Prosecutors said at the time of their detention that the students had acted in line with Kurdish militants and had attempted to portray Turkey and its army as invasion forces “and therefore engaging in illegitimate actions in the region”.
Hundreds of Turks who spoke out against the military campaign on social media or held rallies to protest it had been detained on terrorism charges.