A group of young people have been cleared of organising and taking part in a Pride march in Turkey’s capital in 2019.

In a welcome development, a Turkish judge acquitted 18 young people and a professor for taking part in the march in Ankara, despite an order from the city’s governor banning the event.

The group had been charged with “refusing to disperse” after they were arrested at the march by police, which used tear gas to break up the event.

The accused could have faced three years in prison if convicted.

While being LGBTQ+ is not illegal in Turkey, homophobia and discrimination is commonplace, and the government – led by President Recep Tayyip Erdo─čan – has often waged propaganda against LGBTQ+ people, including the banning of LGBTQ+ events since 2015.

Turkey ranks as the second-worst country in Europe for LGBTQ+ people (behind Azerbaijan) in ILGA-Europe’s Rainbow Europe report which ranks countries on their LGBTQ+ equality laws and policies.

The repressive policies and rhetoric from the Turkish government is the latest in a series of troubling developments across European countries, where LGBTQ+ people have been subjected to increasingly hostile laws, policies and campaigning, including in Hungary, Bulgaria, and Russia.

Founder of EuroQueer Cymru, Dr Alessandro Ceccarelli, said: “It’s an enormous relief that these young people have not been convicted for being proud of who they are, and for showing solidarity with the wider LGBTQ+ in Turkey.

“But this prosecution was a symptom of a much bigger problem of discrimination and persecution of LGBTQ+ people across Europe – and the communities of the UK and Wales need to apply pressure on their governments to oppose this spread and help to create a safe environment across all of Europe.”