First Published: 2017-10-20

Turkish court orders release of teacher on hunger strike
Lawyer of hunger-striking teachers says Semih Ozakca due to be released Friday but academic Nuriye Gulmen will remain in prison.
Middle East Online

Hunger-striking pair have become symbol of biggest purge in Turkey's history.

ANKARA - A Turkish court on Friday ordered the release of a teacher on a hunger strike since March to protest his dismissal in a crackdown after last year's failed coup, his lawyer said.

Semih Ozakca was due to be released later Friday but the academic Nuriye Gulmen -- also on hunger strike to protest her sacking -- will remain in prison, their lawyer Omer Faruk Eminagaoglu said.

The two launched a protest in central Ankara last year after they were fired by government decree under a state of emergency imposed after the attempted overthrow of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

They begun the hunger strike a few months later.

The teachers were arrested in May on charges of belonging to the outlawed Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C), which has carried out sporadic attacks in recent years.

It is blacklisted as a "terror" group by Ankara, the European Union and the United States.

Ozakca and Gulmen face up to 20 years in jail if convicted for charges that include making propaganda for a terrorist organisation.

The pair say the charges are fabricated.

Lawyer Eminagaoglu said Ozakca would have to remain at home, only allowed outside for any approved hospital visits or to attend court hearings.

He will have to wear an electronic tag, the private Dogan news agency reported.

Eminagaoglu said the court in Sincan, outside Ankara, also ordered a new statement to be taken from Gulmen.

The pair have become a symbol of the biggest purge in the country's history and figure among over 140,000 public sector workers including judges, civil servants and police officers suspended or sacked since July 2016.

At least 50,000 people have been also arrested in the ensuing crackdown that has been criticised by Ankara's Western allies.

Fears remain over the health of the hunger strikers, who are only consuming salty or sugary water, herbal tea and vitamin B1.

In September, Turkish authorities transferred Gulmen into intensive care but her family said this was against her will.

The next hearing will be on November 17, Eminagaoglu said.


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