Student given five months for egg-throwing

June 29, 2012, Friday/ 17:09:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

One of two students on trial for throwing eggs at EU Affairs Minister and Chief Negotiator Egemen Bağış at a university protest was sentenced to five months in jail by an İzmir court on Monday.

The two students, E.Ç. and A.D., did not attend the hearing when the verdict was announced by the İzmir 5th Criminal Court of Peace.

The presiding judge ruled for the acquittal of A.D., one of the two defendants. E.Ç., the other suspect, was sentenced to six months in jail on charges of attempted assault and injury, but her sentence was reduced to five months by the panel of judges. The student will not do jail time, as sentences below two years are suspended -- not executed unless they are repeated within a certain time period -- in criminal cases.

Whether throwing eggs is a legitimate and democratic form of protest or an act of aggression has long been a debate in Turkey, where judges have convicted several egg-throwing protesters. It is a common form of protest particularly used by university students.

In earlier remarks to Today's Zaman, former Public Prosecutor Gültekin Avcı had warned, “Tolerance towards an egg today might lead to interpreting every assault that doesn't involve firearms as freedom of expression.”

However, there are different approaches. According to Vahit Bıçak, a professor at the Police Academy, “Throwing eggs is part of freedom of expression and dragging protesters away by police force and taping their mouths is a violation of that freedom. In Western democracies, they are much more tolerant of such acts, but Turkey is very backward in terms of freedom of expression. Violence should be our border on this. Since an egg can't really do harm, an egg protest cannot be treated as a violent act; it can be interpreted as part of freedom of expression.”

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