Educators on hunger strike are members of outlawed DHKP-C: Interior Minister

Educators on hunger strike are members of outlawed DHKP-C: Interior Minister

Educators on hunger strike are members of outlawed DHKP-C: Interior Minister Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu has claimed two educators who were arrested on the 78th day of their hunger strike were members of the outlawed Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party - Front (DHKP-C). 

“The incident is clear. There are dismissals and arrests of people who are directly members of the terrorist organization DHKP-C,” Soylu said on May 25, adding that “everything has been done within the framework of law and order.” 

Academic Nuriye Gülmen and teacher Semih Özakça were arrested on May 24 after over 70 days of hunger strike and more than 200 days of a sit-in in Ankara, where they demanded to be reinstated to their posts which they were dismissed from with state of emergency decrees. 

He accused the two educators of making propaganda for the outlawed group. 

“The dismissals are trying to be portrayed as if they were done to innocent people and as though our struggle against terrorism was diverting,” he said.

Saying that the dismissals of the two were on grounds that they had “organic ties” with DHKP-C, Soylu added that the indictment prepared against Gülmen and Özakça alleged them of attending press conferences and meetings, where they hung banners and distributed leaflets of the organization. The indictment cited dates of events prior to their dismissals, with some dating back to 2012. 

“They said one of them is a teacher the other is an academic. No offence, but we do not send our children to schools so that they can get educated as terrorists,” he added. 

“Nobody would be fine with the state making such individuals teachers for our children and giving them salaries,” he said.

Criticizing opposition lawmakers for supporting Gülmen and Özakça, Soylu said: “Politics should not be a puppet of terrorist organizations. Lawmakers and political parties should be very careful with such behaviors.”

Arrested on terror charges

Gülmen and Özakça were arrested by court on May 24 on charges of being “members of a terrorist organization,” and “making propaganda for a terrorist organization,” state-run Anadolu Agency reported. The court demands the two receive 20 years in prison. 

The indictment added that the hunger strike was transformed from being an innocent demand of them asking for their rights into an activity in which the organization gained members.

It also stated that if their health had deteriorated, their protests would trigger mass protests similar to the Gezi Park Protests in 2013.

CHP leader: ‘Are they only terrorists now?’

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu criticized Soylu over his statement, saying: “If they are members of terrorist organizations, then you should reveal the evidence and the judiciary should do what is necessary. [They weren’t terrorists] until yesterday but they became ones just now?”

The CHP and the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) reacted against the minister in parliament in a late-night session on May 24 when he said Gülmen and Özakça had been dismissed for links to the DHKP-C.

“They were dismissed over FETÖ [Fethullahist Terrorist Organization] links,” Filiz Kerestecioğlu, the HDP’s deputy group chairperson, said in parliament in response to Soylu. 

CHP lawmaker Atilla Sertel also criticized Soylu for not acting according to the principle of the presumption of innocence. 

“Mr. Minister, you are declaring them guilty without a judicial decision,” Sertel said. 

The CHP’s Veli Ağbaba also excoriated Soylu, saying, “If those two people have been terrorists since 2012, why they are still on the loose, I want to ask the interior minister.”

Gülmen and Özakça have not been the subject of an investigation or a court order, Ağbaba said. “When were they arrested? After they started a hunger strike and showed the real face of Turkey to the world.”