Lawyers of two Turkish hunger-striking educators detained ahead of first hearing
Mesut Hasan BENLİ / Gamze KOLCU - ANKARA
Seventeen lawyers of two imprisoned hunger-striking educators have been detained two days before the first hearing of their case, in which the educators are accused of being members of a terrorist organization.
The People’s Law Office (“Halkın Hukuk Bürosu” in Turkish) lawyers were taken into custody after simultaneous operations on early Sept. 12 across five cities, including Istanbul and Ankara, following a warrant from the Istanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office also accusing the lawyers of “being members of a terrorist organization.”
Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça began their hunger strike in April after being dismissed from their jobs with state of emergency decrees, demanding to be reinstated to their jobs. They were arrested on May 23, on the 75th day of their hunger strike, on terror charges.
Esra Özakça, Semih Özakça’s wife, said all lawyers in the case were taken into custody two days before the educators’ hearings, to be held on Sept. 14 at the Ankara 19th Heavy Criminal Court.
“Shortly before their first hearing, they were left without lawyers amid an already existing restriction on lawyer visits,” Esra Özakça said on the 114th day of her hunger strike, which she began to be in solidarity with the two educators.
“They were the lawyers who followed the case since the beginning. Somebody will surely defend Nuriye and Semih,” she added.
Özakça said the educators’ health conditions were deteriorating seriously, as she also suffers from ailing health.
“He [Semih] is curious to how justice will be executed,” she said, after her visit to Sincan prison infirmary, where the teacher and the academic were put in after their condition reached a critical stage.
“He told me that his eye vision was going out of focus; he suffers from ringing in the ears and insomnia. He told me that his sleep was often interrupted by wardens in order to make sure that he is conscious,” she added.
“He said the case is about justice and called on everybody to attend the first hearing,” she said.
Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu previously claimed that Gülmen and Özakça had “organic ties” with the outlawed Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party - Front (DHKP-C).