Turkey launches terror probe against students for following Demirtas on Twitter

Each of five students faces five years of imprisonment on grounds of making "terrorist propaganda" on social media.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) - A Turkish prosecutor has launched a terrorism investigation against five college students in the northern city of Amasya for their social media activity including following Kurdish politicians' pages, notable among them that of the jailed Kurdish leader Selahattin Demirtas.

The police reportedly raided the students' houses and confiscated electronic devices as well as video game CDs such as "Black Hunter" and "Dragon Multibot." The authorities did not consider the games criminal evidence.

An indictment written by the office of the local Public Prosecutor demanded up to five years of imprisonment for each of the undergraduates named as Ahmet S., Fuat T., Gulgun K., Serdal D, and Ugur D. on the grounds of disseminating propaganda for the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), the major Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reported on Thursday.

The students were accused of a crime for following social media accounts of former lawmakers of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) Figen Yuksekdag, Idris Baluken, Ferhat Encu, Faysal Sariyildiz, and current MP Meral Danis Bestas.

The first three have been in jail as part of a massive crackdown that began on the Kurdish opposition in Turkey in late 2016 along with Demirtas. The fourth, Sariyildiz, is in self-exile in a European country.

The prosecutor argued that "liking" a song by the Turkish leftist band Grup Yorum on Facebook constituted a crime, as well as for those of some Kurdish music videos, a television channel called IMC TV that was taken off the air in a 2016 police raid, the Ozgur Gundem newspaper, also closed with an order from the office of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and other opposition-affiliated posts.

The first trial of the case against the students is to take place in November.

Earlier Friday, a court in Istanbul sentenced Demitas, former Co-Chair of the HDP and a presidential candidate during the June elections, to four years and eight months in jail for a 2013 speech he delivered in praise of the then-effort by Erdogan and PKK's jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan for a political solution to the Turkish-Kurdish conflict.

Demirtas's Twitter page has over 1.6 million followers, the majority inside Turkey.

"Unlawful decisions by a judiciary whose dignity has been stomped by the government cannot make us take a single step back. Only low-lives would serve Fascism. We shall continue to resist Fascism, stand upright with high morale and enthusiasm," a post read on his Twitter page, now potential evidence of a crime.

Editing by John J. Catherine