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Four students of the Middle East Technical University (METU), who had been arrested on charge of "insulting the president" due to a banner that they carried at their graduation ceremony, and one person, who had allegedly printed the banner, had their first hearings today (October 22).
The court board of the Ankara 11th Penal Court of First Instance ruled that the international travel bans, which had previously been imposed on the students, as well as the ruling of judicial control, which had been given for the owner of the shop where the banner was printed, shall be lifted.
The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor's Office also ruled that it shall be questioned whether there have been any investigations launched against the executives of the Penguen humor magazine in relation with the caricature, which was on the banner carried by the students of METU.
The next hearing will be held on April 4, 2019.
The students met with President and Justice and Development Party (AKP) Chair Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on October 16. On the next day, the attorney of Erdoğan submitted a petition to the Ankara 11th Penal Court of First Instance, stating that they have withdrawn their criminal complaint.
Three of the students were taken into custody on July 7, 2018 and one of them was taken into custody on July 9. The students were arrested on July 10, 2018. A lawsuit has been filed against four students who carried the banner and one person who printed it on charge of "insulting the president." Students were released from prison on August 10.
The caricature on the banner, which has been subject of the court case, was originally published on the Penguen humor magazine in 2004. Under the heading of the "Kingdom of Tayyips", the caricature depicts the President and Justice and Development Party (AKP) Chair Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the form of an elephant, a cow, camel, frog, snake, duck, giraffe and monkey.
Erdoğan had filed a claim for immaterial compensation of 40 thousand YTL (New Turkish Lira). However, the case was rejected by the 1st Civil Court of First Instance on the ground that the caricature in question is within the scope of "freedom of expression".
According to the BİA Media Monitoring Report in July-August-September 2018, The Article no. 299 of the Turkish Penal Code, which started to be implemented for criticisms and allegations about President Erdoğan since August 2014, when he was elected President, became the basis of prison sentences or judicial fines given to at least 49 journalists until October 1. (BK/SD)