[UPDATE] Court rules for continuation of hunger strikers’ imprisonment

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Turkish former primary school teacher Semih Ozakca (R) and Turkish academician Nuriye Gulmen sit in wheelchairs wearing facemasks on the 63rd day of their hunger strike during a demonstration to call for the authorities to give back jobs to public employees who have been dismissed from their positions by decree of law since the imposition of the state of emergency rule in Turkey, in Ankara, on May 10, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN

A Turkish court on Thursday ruled for a continuation of the arrest of hunger striker teachers Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça, after a prosecutor has asked.

According to Cumhuriyet daily report, Ankara 19th High Criminal Court decided for the continuation of pretrial detention for the two educationists who are on 190th day of a hunger strike to protest their dismissal by a statutory decree.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Ali Haydar Hakverdi said earlier on Thursday that the prosecutor asked for the continuation of the teachers’ arrest on the grounds that they were unable to present a defense.

The teachers were not brought to the Ankara 19th High Criminal Court for the first hearing of their trial on Thursday at the insistence of the gendarmerie, which claimed that there were potential threats to the lives of the teachers and inadequate personnel at the courthouse to handle it.

Gülmen and Özakça, who were accused of terror propaganda and membership in a terrorist organization, were not brought to court for reasons of “security.” Their lawyers were detained a few days before the hearing.

The educators were on the 76th day of a hunger strike to protest their dismissal by a statutory decree when they were arrested on terror charges on May 23 in Ankara.

Gülmen and Özakça said their strike aims to draw attention to the situation of more than 150,000 dismissed state employees.

The Turkish government started a crackdown on the opposition in the wake of a botched coup attempt on July 15, 2016 and arrested more than 50,000 and dismissing or suspending around 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants.

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