Academics on hunger strike jailed in Turkey

Nuriye Gulmen, a literature professor, and Semih Ozakca, a primary school teacher, who have been on hunger strike after they both lost their jobs in a crackdown following a failed July coup against President Tayyip Erdogan, take part in a protest against a government purge in Ankara, Turkey, May 11, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer

Academician Nuriye Gulmen and teacher Semih Ozakca, expelled with Emergency Law Decrees after the July 2016 coup attempt and on hunger strike to reclaim their jobs for 76 days were both arrested by an Ankara court on Tuesday evening.

The houses where Gulmen and Ozakca were staying were raided by police last Sunday night and the pair stated that they will stop taking water and sugar as well in the case their detention was extended.

After giving their testimonies at the prosecutor’s office earlier today, both educators were referred to vacation court which ruled for their arrest, reported Firat news agency on Tuesday.

“The fact that the defendants have continued their hunger strike despite the fact that a criminal prosecution has started about them with the accusation of membership of a terrorist organisation on 2 May, creates a strong suspicion that they might indeed be guilty,” said the court statement ordering the arrest of Gulmen and Ozakca.

“They will harm the functioning of justice if they are not arrested,” concluded the judge in his statement.

Gulmen and Ozakca were asked “scandalous questions” during the prosecutor’s interrogation said Selcuk Kozagacli, one of the lawyers representing the educators.

“Which benefits are offered to you for staging a death fast action?” asked the prosecutor to Gulmen, who has started to show clear signs of weakness due to serious loss of weight and is also showing some signs of Wernike-Korsakoff syndrome according to a statement by the Ankara chapter of the Turkish Medical Association issued on the night of her detention.

“Has it occurred to you that those who shared a video of you playing guitar and singing are actually members of a terrorist organisation? Why did you like that twitter post?” the prosecutor asked Semih Ozakca. “I am the one singing in the video, therefore I liked it,” replied Ozakca.

“What is the real reason of your actions which are disguised as an innocent struggle to claim your rights?” and “Are you trying to incite events similar to Gezi?” were among other questions the prosecutor directed at Gulmen and Ozakca.

Ozakca’s mother Sultan Ozakca and wife Esra Ozakca, who were forcefully detained and tortured in a police vehicle on Monday are also still in detention.