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Turkey detains 50 more people after university protests

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ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish police detained at least 50 people demonstrating outside a courthouse on Friday, a student group said, part of protests that have dragged on for nearly three months over President Tayyip Erdogan’s choice of rector at a top Istanbul university.

The protesters were rallying outside Istanbul’s central Caglayan courthouse in support of around 20 students detained on Thursday at the campus of Bogazici University.

Video footage showed riot police on Friday dragging protesters into police buses after skirmishes. Students were heard chanting slogans including: “Pressure will not make us yield.”

The protests at Bogazici began in early January and briefly spread in Istanbul and to other cities in February, leading to the detention of 600 people and some clashes with police.

Vigils have continued on campus, with students and academics gathering daily to protest against what they say was the undemocratic appointment of Melih Bulu, an academic and former political candidate, as rector.

The government has stood by the appointment and Bulu has said he will remain in the job.

Thursday’s protests erupted over a university investigation into a student for carrying a rainbow flag - symbol of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community - during earlier demonstrations.

Seven students stood trial last week on charges of inciting hatred by displaying a picture which combined Islamic images with LGBT rainbow flags. When the image circulated on social media, authorities responded with what the United States and the United Nations both described as homophobic rhetoric.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu has repeatedly labelled the students “LGBT deviants”. Erdogan has praised the youth wing of his ruling Islamist-rooted AK Party for not being “LGBT youth”.

Reporting by Ece Toksabay; Editing by Jonathan Spicer and Gareth Jones

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