Brussels, 8 October 2021 Nineteen defendants who have spent more than two-and-a-half years awaiting trial for organising a Pride at the Middle Eastern Technical University (METU) in Ankara, Turkey, have today been acquitted by 39th Penal Court of First Instance. The defendants – 18 students and one member of the University’s academic staff – had been facing up to three years in prison for organising a Pride against an order of the University’s rector. International human rights organisations including the European Pride Organisers Association had condemned the criminal charges and urged the court to acquit. Freedom of assembly and freedom of association are fundamental human rights enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights, ratified by Turkey as a member of the Council of Europe. Commenting on the acquittal, Kristine Garina, President of the European Pride Organisers Association said: “We are of course all delighted that the METU Pride defendants have all been acquitted, but it is a source of national shame for Turkey that these charges were brought and that 18 young people should spend more than two years worrying about their future, their prospects and their liberty. The European Court of Human Rights has long held that Pride marches are protected under the Convention, making this case wholly unnecessary and an utter waste of time.” “Governments across Europe must recognise that LGBTI+ people have the same rights to come together and be together as anyone else, and these rights must be protected.” The European Pride Organisers Association first met with two of the METU Pride organisers in October 2019, and has met with them several times since. The Association’s members have helped to raise awareness and show solidarity.