First hearing of two hunger-striking educators held amid police intervention
Pınar Erdoğan - ANKARA
The first hearing of Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça, two educators who have been on hunger strike for 170 days, was held at an Ankara court amid police intervention outside the courthouse on Sept. 14.
Gülmen, a literature professor, and Özakça, a primary school teacher, were arrested on May 23 on the 75th day of their hunger strike, which they initiated after being dismissed from their jobs with a state of emergency decree.
But the educators were not brought to court on “security and health” grounds, the court said. The health condition of Gülmen and Özakça has already reached a critical stage, doctors say.
The first hearing came after 115 days, with Gülmen and Özakça being accused of “being a member of a terrorist organization,” “violating the law on meetings and demonstrations,” and “making propaganda for a terrorist organization.”
On Sept. 12, 10 lawyers of the two educators were detained on terror charges, two days ahead of the hearing, but around 1000 lawyers applied to the court to defend them in the case.
Before the hearing, their supporters and lawyers tried to read out a press release in front of the courthouse, however, faced off police carrying shields dispersing them and firing pepper spray.
Police intervened inside the courtroom as well, pushing away the lawyers and supporters shouting slogans from the hallway at the Ankara 7th High Criminal Court while using pepper spray and brute force.
Many lawyers, press members and supporters were not allowed to enter the courtroom after the court board said the room was overcrowded.
Some 30 people were taken into custody during the police intervention.
The case attracted attention from politicians, media and international observers, as main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmakers Sezgin Tanrıkulu, Ali Şeker, Mahmut Tanal and Orhan Sarıbay and Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) lawmakers Mithat Sancar and Filiz Kerestecioğlu attended the hearing.
“Nuriye and Semih were absent in court. They are supposed to have their trials, but the accused are not present. The lawyers were allowed to enter only after a crisis, and some of the lawyers were not allowed because of excuses like the room is full,” Kerestecioğlu said outside the courthouse, criticizing the board’s decision to exclude some lawyers.
The hearing was still ongoing when Hürriyet Daily News went to print.