EU very concerned about arrested hunger strikers Gülmen and Özakça

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President of the European Parliament Socialists and Democrats Group Gianni Pittella (C) gestures during a visit in support Turkish academic Nuriye Gulmen (L) and an elementary school teacher Semih Ozakca (R) on the 65th day of a hunger strike in protest to their dismissal by decree-law on May 12, 2017 in Ankara. / AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN

The European Union has commented on the recent arrest of two hunger strikers who were dismissed from their jobs in the wake of a botched coup attempt on July 15, 2016, expressing concern about the state of their health.

Responding to a question, an EU spokesperson said there is concern about the deteriorating health of Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça, two dismissed educators who were arrested on May 23 in Ankara while on a hunger strike.

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.

Brussels has once again reiterated that the anti-terror law was being arbitrarily used without proper access to legal remedies.

“The reports by news agencies about the arrest of the two Turkish teachers — Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça — worry us. They were detained by the police in Ankara on May 23 on the 75th day of their hunger strike, following their dismissal after the coup attempt. We are following their cases via the EU Delegation in Ankara and are particularly concerned by their deteriorating health conditions,” said an EU spokesperson.

Calling on Turkish authorities to deepen their close cooperation with the Council of Europe, the spokesperson said the cooperation was particularly crucial in addressing remedies for measures taken by the government after the coup.

“The EU has repeatedly stressed that Turkey, as a candidate country, needs to aspire to the highest democratic standards and practices, including in the area of freedom of expression and rule of law,” the spokesperson said.

The EU has underlined that the main reason for the delay of visa free travel for Turkish citizens was the arbitrary use of the Turkish anti-terror law.

Turkey promised to take back refugees who illegally cross to the EU in return for financial assistance and a promise of visa liberalization in a deal signed in 2015.

“In addition, the selective and arbitrary application of anti-terror legislation has a grave impact on freedom of expression, which is the main reason behind the corresponding outstanding benchmark in the visa liberalization dialogue,” said the spokesperson.

The EU is being severely criticized by human rights organizations for turning a blind eye to gross human rights violations in the acceding candidate country Turkey.

The EU spokesperson added that any alleged wrongdoing or crime should be subject to due process and that the right of every individual to fair trial needs to be respected.

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