Turkish court rules to keep hunger-striking educators Gülmen and Özakça in jail
ANKARAAn Ankara court on Sept. 14 ordered two teachers, who have been on hunger strike for six months in protest at their dismissal from their jobs, to remain in jail, despite growing alarm over their health.
Neither academic Nuriye Gülmen nor primary school teacher Semih Özakça, were present as their trial on “terror” charges got under way in Ankara.
The defense said the authorities had cited health and security grounds for not bringing them to court.
Gülmen and Özakça were removed from their jobs as part of a state of emergency law, after which they started a hunger strike in the center of the capital Ankara. The two were then arrested in May on charges of belonging to the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C), an outlawed group that has carried out attacks in recent years.
Their lawyers urged the court to release them but the judge ruled that they should remain in custody.
The trial was adjourned to Sept. 28, with the next hearing to take place in Sincan near Ankara, where the pair are being held.
Earlier, chaotic scenes unfolded outside the courtroom as dozens battled to find space in the cramped hall, with police using pepper spray on supporters and lawyers shouting slogans.
Before the trial started, lawmakers from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) gathered outside the courthouse to make statements in support of the pair, backed by dozens of supporters.
“We will destroy this oppressive regime. Without democracy and freedom, nothing will be possible in this country,” CHP lawmaker Mahmut Tanal said.
Police intervened to stop them, later using tear gas to roughly disperse supporters shouting: “Nuriye and Semih are not alone!”
Around 150 lawyers turned up on Sept. 14 to show their support, but the courtroom was so full that many were unable to enter.
Beyza Gülmen, Nuriye’s sister, told daily Hürriyet that her sister was “not well.”
“Her legs, neck and shoulders hurt. She has heart rhythm issues. She cannot walk. She is sensitive to light,” she added
Özakça’s mother, Sultan Özakça, said her son had difficulty walking and was experiencing similar issues as Gülmen, in addition to a “slow pulse” and “intense stomach pain.”