Cihan Kırmızıgül, a 22-year-old student at İstanbul’s Galatasaray University, was sentenced to 11 years, three months in prison by an İstanbul court on Friday on charges of membership in the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), possession of explosives and causing damage to private buildings.
The legal case against Kırmızıgül is popularly known as the “poşu” case. Claims were raised that the young man was accused of being a PKK member because he happened to be walking in the Kağıthane district of İstanbul wearing a poşu as a group of similarly dressed youngsters, allegedly PKK sympathizers, threw Molotov cocktails at a nearby market in 2010. A poşu is a traditional type of Kurdish scarf that is often seen as a political symbol and which many associate with the PKK.
On Friday afternoon, the İstanbul 14th High Criminal Court initially sentenced Kırmızıgül to 33 years, nine months in prison, but later reduced his sentence to 11 years, three months. Kırmızıgül denied the charges leveled against at him during the trial. “I reject the accusations directed at me in the indictment. I thank my friends and professors who have supported me so far. I demand my release,” he said.
Kırmızıgül had stayed in prison for 25 months until he was released pending trial in late March of this year. A prosecutor in the case had demanded up to 45 years in prison for the young man.
After the sentencing hearing, Kırmızıgül’s friends and professors staged a small protest denouncing the ruling. Özgür Mumcu, the son of slain journalist Uğur Mumcu, said they were shocked by the court decision. “The prosecutor had demanded a long sentence [for Kırmızıgül], but we never thought the court would agree. Now is the time to appeal to a higher court. I hope the decision will be reversed there,” he noted.
Mehmet Karlı, one of Kırmızıgül’s professors, also reacted to the decision, telling reporters that the court was “playing with the life of a 22-year-old man.” “They [the judges] must be joking. They must be playing with us. Cihan was released beforehand, and we were hopeful that the court would realize the mistake in this case. Now we have seen that it [his release] was a tactic. But we will not quit fighting [against the court decision]. We are here [to support Kırmızıgül], and we will continue to be. There is no single piece of evidence in the file [indictment] with which to blame Cihan. They are playing with the life of a 22-year-old man,” he said.
Karlı also targeted two prosecutors for their contradicting opinions on Kırmızıgül’s case. “I have difficulty in explaining the [court] decision. There were two judges in the previous hearing, and they had ruled for Cihan’s release. But the other judges sentenced him to 11 years and three months in prison today despite the lack of sound evidence against Cihan. One prosecutor demanded 45 years for him, and another prosecutor asked the judges to release Cihan. The contradiction shows the anomalies in the trial. They are playing with the life of a young man in order to not tell the public they are wrong [in this case]. We will say ‘stop’ to this. They [the judges] may frighten other people, but we will continue to fight [for Cihan’s freedom],” the professor added.