Court arrests two Turkish hunger-striking educators on terror charges

Court arrests two Turkish hunger-striking educators on terror charges

Court arrests two Turkish hunger-striking educators on terror charges

AFP photo

An Ankara court on May 23 ordered the arrest of two educators, Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça, who have been on hunger strike for over 75 days in protest at being dismissed from their posts through state of emergency decrees. 

Özakça and Gülmen had earlier been referred to court with the arrest demands on May 23, a day after both were detained from their homes in the capital Ankara.

The court later ordered the arrest of the duo on charges of "being member of an armed terror organization."

Police escorted supporters of the educators who arrived at the courthouse outside, citing the prosecutor’s request. 

Asked about what the educators were asked during their interrogations, lawyer Zehra Özdemir said Özakça was asked what the motive behind his hunger strike was and about his social media posts. 

“The prosecutor’s office asked Özakça, ‘What kind of a benefit was presented to you in order for you to launch a death fast?’ In return, Semih said, ‘I’m not on a death fast, but I’m on a hunger strike. What kind of interest could I have?’” Özdemir told news portal Bianet. 

Lawyer Selçuk Kozağaçlı said they were asked more about the “actual motive” behind their hunger strike.

“What is the purpose of you engaging in acts that are far from demanding rights, but instead are inciting hatred and enmity among people?” the educators were reportedly asked. 

Moreover, Özakça and Gülmen were also reportedly asked whether they wanted to start mass protests similar to the Gezi Park protests of 2013. 

While waiting for the court’s decision after testifying, Özakça said they “can’t get the right to ask for a job from them.”

“These pressures, threats of arrests and arrests are their desperation. We will preserve our hope and will continue our struggle until victory,” Özakça said. 

Gülmen, meanwhile, said they can be arrested even if there were no evidences.

“The prosecutor can’t ask a question. The only question he was able to ask was, ‘Did you share anything through social media that includes criminal tendencies?’ There wasn’t any question other than that. However, we think that we will be arrested. We will continue rejecting being oppressed in jail too. That’s why they are desperate. Our resistance will continue in jail,” she said. 

Meanwhile, a sit-in protest staged by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmakers after the educators were detained lasted for seven hours. 

Mustafa Balbay, Veli Ağbaba, Necati Yılmaz, Eren Erdem, Ali Haydar Hakverdi and Utku Çakır Özer participated in the protest in front of the Human Rights Monument in Ankara’s Yüksel Street. 

Another CHP lawmaker, Sezgin Tanrıkulu, criticized that people supporting Gülmen and Özakça were also detained, likening the cordoning of the monument by the police to an arrest.
“Breaking news: The government, unable to slow down with detentions and arrests under the state of emergency, has arrested the human rights monument too!” Tanrıkulu said on his Twitter account on May 22 with a picture of the street. 

Elsewhere, British director Ken Loach sent a message of support to Gülmen and Özakça, calling on foreign politicians to make efforts to ensure their demands are met, while criticizing the Turkish government and media.