French student caught in Turkish terror trial

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.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Erdogan calls French separatism bill ‘guillotine’ of democracy

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday denounced a planned French law designed to counter "Islamist separatism" as a "guillotine" of democracy.

Erdogan calls French separatism bill 'guillotine' of democracy
Erdogan has already denounced the proposed measures as "anti-Muslim". Photo: Adem ALTAN/AFP

The draft legislation has been criticised both inside France and abroad for stigmatising Muslims and giving the state new powers to limit speech and religious groups.

“The adoption of this law, which is openly in contradiction of human rights, freedom of religion and European values, will be a guillotine blow inflicted on French democracy,” said Erdogan in a speech in Ankara.

The current version of the planned law would only serve the cause of extremism, putting NGOs under pressure and “forcing young people to choose between their beliefs and their education”, he added.

READ ALSO: What’s in France’s new law to crack down on Islamist extremism?

“We call on the French authorities, and first of all President (Emmanuel) Macron, to act sensibly,” he continued. “We expect a rapid withdrawal of this bill.”

Erdogan also said he was ready to work with France on security issues and integration, but relations between the two leaders have been strained for some time.

France’s government is in the process of passing new legislation to crack down on what it has termed “Islamist separatism”, which would give the state more power to vet and disband religious groups judged to be threats to the nation.

Erdogan has already denounced the proposed measures as “anti-Muslim”.

READ ALSO: Has Macron succeeded in creating an ‘Islam for France’?

Last October, Erdogan questioned Macron’s “mental health”, accusing him of waging a “campaign of hatred” against Islam, after the French president defended the right of cartoonists to caricature the prophet Mohammed.

The two countries are also at odds on a number of other issues, including Libya, Syria and the eastern Mediterranean.