First Published: 2017-09-12

Turkey arrests lawyers representing teachers on hunger strike
Lawyers backing detained teachers, on hunger strike for six months after unfair dismissals, are arrested on ‘terror’ charges.
Middle East Online

People protest arrest of hunger-striking teachers

ANKARA - Turkish authorities on Tuesday detained on "terror" charges at least 15 lawyers from the legal association representing two imprisoned teachers on a hunger strike to protest their sacking in an ongoing purge.

The detention of the lawyers from the Office of People's Rights (HHB) comes two days before academic Nuriye Gulmen and teacher Semih Ozakca, who have been on a hunger strike for six months, were themselves due to go on trial on terror charges.

The pair, along with thousands of other education workers, were fired by a government decree under the state of emergency imposed after the failed July 15 coup attempt last year.

On March 9, they went on a hunger strike to challenge their dismissal and were arrested in May on charges of membership of the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C), an outlawed Marxist group that has carried out sporadic attacks.

Fifteen lawyers from the HHB were detained in raids in Ankara and Istanbul, the state-run Anadolu news agency said. They are accused of membership of the DHKP-C.

Another lawyer from the office, Anil Arman Akkus, told AFP that 18 lawyers were targeted by arrest warrants and at least 13 were detained, but the office had no news of the five others.

The campaign of Gulmen and Ozakca -- which they dubbed "hungry for jobs" -- has become a symbol for government critics who feel thousands have been unjustly swept up in the post-coup crackdown.

Protests in their support continue every day in the capital Ankara with their trial scheduled to get under way on Thursday.

Akkus said those detained were the "engine" of the defence team.

"This attack is aimed at making us give up," said Esra Ozakca, Semih's wife, who has herself been on hunger strike since the arrest of her husband and also under house arrest since July 13.

The pair will "not be without lawyers", she said, calling for a strong turnout at the opening of the trial.

There have been growing fears for the health of the pair, who are only consuming salty or sugary water, herbal teas and vitamin B1.

Under the state of emergency imposed a few days after the failed coup, Turkish authorities fired judges, civil servants, teachers and academics, accusing them of being supporters of the Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.

Ankara accuses Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in the US state of Pennsylvania, of ordering the failed putsch. Gulen strongly denies the charges.


Baghdad refuses talks with Kurdistan about referendum results

Three Israelis killed at West Bank settlement

Seven arrested in Egypt for raising rainbow flag at concert

European ambassadors to US strongly back Iran nuclear pact

Dubai set to become first city with flying taxis

Libya's Haftar bolsters stature as key player

Kurdish independence: How far will Turkey go?

Germany’s de facto ‘IS leader’ on trial

IMF satisfied with Egypt's 'bold' reforms

Qatar Airways places $2bn order for six Boeing planes

Erdogan expects ‘ethnic war’ after Iraqi Kurdish independence vote

Israelis shocked by German nationalist gains

Hamas-Fatah reconciliation process shows growing Egyptian influence in region

74-year-old Iranian gets death sentence for explicit parties

Iraqi soldiers take part in Turkish military drill

Iran joins Turkey in warning of regional chaos from Kurd vote

Turkish hunger-striking academics in intensive care

Returning Syrians find Raqa city unrecognisable

How far can Baghdad become independent of Iranian influence?

Qatar World Cup worker sacked after speaking to UN team

China conducts first military drills in Djibouti

Saudi official axed over king's image with Yoda

Syrian government ready to discuss Kurdish autonomy

63-year-old American abducted in Yemen's Sanaa

US kills ISIS chiefs hiding in new nerve centre

Saudi establishment spreading Shiite hate speech

Madrid hails Rabat’s collaboration in fighting terrorism

Regional tensions rise in Kurds’ independence vote

Iraq Kurds start voting in historic independence referendum

UAE announces plans for region’s first nuclear reactor

Erdogan threatens Iraqi Kurds with border closure, oil block

Putin to visit Erdogan this week for Syria, Iraq talks

Sudan vows to step up efforts to improve US ties

Turkey to launch intervention into Syria — and maybe into Iraq

Egyptian ‘world’s heaviest woman’ dies in Abu Dhabi

Palestinian unity government remains unlikely

Emirati man fights his employer to serve in country’s army

Palestinian PM to visit Gaza next week

Saudi advisory body to tackle female driving ban

Turkey denies closing Iraqi border in response to Kurdish vote

US air strikes kill 17 Islamic State militants in Libya

US-led strikes killed 84 civilians near Syria's Raqa

Yemen's Hadi says military solution 'most likely'

The high cost of Syria’s destruction

Palestinian negotiator awaits lung transplant in US