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French student caught in Turkish terror trial

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16:05 CEST+02:00
A French-Turkish university student went on trial on Wednesday accused of links to an outlawed far-left extremist group in a case that has sparked criticism from human rights groups.

Sevil Sevimli, who was arrested in May and spent three months in jail until her conditional release in August, appeared in court in the northwestern city of Bursa along with five other defendants.

All are accused of colluding with a terrorist group, a crime that risks up to 32 years in prison.

"We are here for ridiculous reasons. Hopefully I will be acquitted as soon as possible but I do not think it will happen right away," 20-year-old Sevimli told reporters before the hearing.

She had been forbidden to leave Turkish territory pending her trial. And the next hearing is slated for November 19th.

Prosecutors accuse her of having links to the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C), which the United States and the European Union list as a terrorist group.

Since 1976, the DHKP-C has been behind numerous attacks against the Turkish state that have left dozens of people dead, including two retired generals and a former justice minister.

On September 11th, a suicide bomber said to be from DHKP-C blew himself up at a police station in Istanbul, killing a Turkish police officer and wounding seven other people.

Sevimli was arrested after joining a May Day parade in Istanbul, demonstrating in favour of free education in Turkey and attending a concert by Grup Yorum, a left-wing music band.

Emma Webb Sinclair of Human Rights Watch called for a revision of anti-terrorism laws in Turkey.

"Distributing legal journals, going on protests without committing any violent activity, participating in meetings: these are the kind of activities police, prosecutors and courts in Turkey deem as evidence of being a member of a terrorist group," she told AFP.

"There is an urgent need for revision of terrorism laws in Turkey and the immediate release of hundreds, thousands of individuals from prolonged pre-trial detention."

Born in France to Turkish Kurd parents, Sevimli was arrested while she was in Turkey completing a final year of studies under Erasmus, the inter-European university exchange scheme.

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