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98 Year Jail Term For Wearing Red Scarf

98 Year Jail Term For Wearing Red Scarf

Turkish prosecutors are demanding 98 years in jail for a young Turkish woman – because she decided to wear a red scarf at a peaceful protest.

Hopeful art student Ayse Deniz Karacagil, aged 20, from the southern Turkish city of Antalya was one of those who took part in a peaceful protest in September in her hometown complaining at the death of demonstrator Ahmet Atakan. The circumstances of his death have still not been explained.

The ruling AKP government's handling of the 2013 protests in Turkey in which she was involved were widely criticized by other nations and international organizations, including the European Union, the United Nations, and the UK, where the Foreign Office condemned the 'indiscriminate' use of tear gas, adding: "We encourage the Turkish authorities to respect the right to peaceful protest and freedom of assembly, which are fundamental human rights in any democratic society."

Karacagil was singled out when police moved to break up the demonstration and managed to get a photograph of her that was used as a reason to arrest her because of the fact she was wearing a red scarf. Twenty-year-old Karacagil’s interrogation, which focused on the colour of her scarf, became infamous and was even turned into a theatre play by a troupe of actors.

Red according to prosecutors is the colour of socialism, and that meant that she knew by wearing the red scarf she was indicating her membership of the illegal MLKP, an underground Anti-Revisionist Marxist-Leninist and Hoxhaist communist party in Turkey.

She was charged together with four others for whom prosecutors want the maximum sentence. That includes between 26 and 95 years and six months for Murat Sezgin, 16 and 55 years and four months for Mustafa Cihan Yılmaz, 11 and 26 years for Ali Karakuş, and 13 and 38 years for Leyla Nuyan.

Karacagil's defence lawyer Hakan Evcin said that prosecutors were clearly hoping to intimidate other people from getting involved in demonstrations with the absurdly high sentencing. He said it was a reminder of the 1990s where there were similar absurd sentences and that the situation had improved briefly, although under the current government it might seem as if nothing had changed.

Karacagil and her friends were arrested at the beginning of October, a month after the protest, during raids after which they spent four months in investigative custody. The only evidence against her is a photograph showing her with the red scarf that she was wearing on her head, saying that it was an attempt to protect herself from the tear gas the police were using.

She was also standing by a barricade erected by those that were trying to protect themselves from being beaten by the police.

The young woman's dad Omer Faruk Karacagil said that despite the prosecutors demand for a long sentence, his daughter was in relatively good mental health. He said that she was not prepared to make a public statement about what had happened other than to confirm she was never interested in being involved in violent protest and was only interested in peaceful demonstrations.

He said: "She wants to study painting and had already gone through the first stage of an application for university. But that looks like being a long shot now as I am expecting she will be get some sort of sentence although I hope not 98 years."

The first hearing of the trial will be held at Antalya’s 6th Court of Serious Crimes on June 12.

Antalya is famous as a tourism centre and as well as having 1 million inhabitants it also has a large university where Karacagil had been hoping to study.

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