20-year jail sentence sought for educators on hunger strike on terror charges

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Nuriye Gülmen

An indictment charging Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça, two educators who went on a hunger strike after they were fired by government decrees in the aftermath of a July 15 coup attempt in Turkey and were arrested on Tuesday, seeks a jail sentence of up to 20 years for each of the educators on terror charges.

The educators were in the 77th day of a hunger strike they began to be able to return to their jobs, as of Thursday.

In the indictment, drafted by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, it is claimed that Gülmen and Özakça’s “hunger strike has strayed from being an innocent search for a right and turned into an activity to recruit new members to the terror organization.”

The educators are accused of membership in the far-left Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C) and disseminating the propaganda of this terror organization.

According to the indictment, the educators launched the hunger strike based on an order from the DHKP/C.

The document says if Gülmen and Özakça’s medical conditions deteriorate with the continuation of the hunger strike, the state will be held responsible for this and protests will be launched similar to the Gezi protests of 2013.

The Gezi protests took place in the summer of 2013 due to government plans to demolish a park in İstanbul’s Taksim neighborhood. The protests, which were sparked out of environmental concerns in Taksim, turned into anti-government protests across the country.

Gülmen was fired from Konya Selçuk University for her alleged ties to the Gülen movement. Özakça was a teacher at a primary school in Turkey’s eastern province of Mardin before he was purged over ties to a terrorist organization.

The two protested for months in the same area of Ankara before they started their hunger strike. Both have been detained several times due to their protests.

Thousands of academics and teachers have been removed from their jobs since the July 15 coup attempt as part of a post-coup purge launched by the government under the pretext of an anti-coup fight.

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