Court Orders Release of Turkish Professor on Hunger Strike

Turkish professor Nuriye Gülmen (35), who has been on hunger strike since losing her job in a purge following last year’s failed coup through emergency decrees, was convicted on 1 December of belonging to a banned far-left group, however, the court ordered her release pending an appeal.

Gülmen was sentenced to six years and three months in jail for being a member of the outlawed militant leftist DHKP-C group, deemed a terrorist organisation by Turkey, defence lawyers told Reuters.

She was found not guilty of lesser charges including organising illegal rallies.

Gülmen, a professor of literature had been hospitalised before the trial began because of her declining state of health after seven months of surviving on water, herbal tea and sugar and salt solutions.

Primary school teacher Semih Özakça, (28), who has also been on hunger strike since losing his job in the crackdown, was acquitted on similar charges. The Ankara court had ordered his release on 21 October for the remainder of the trial, on condition that he wear an electronic tagging device.

Both deny any links to DHKP-C.

A third defendant, Acun Karadağ, was acquitted on a lesser charge of participating in illegal rallies.

The teachers said that their hunger strike was intended to highlight the plight of around 150,000 state employees , including academics, civil servants, judges and soldiers who have been suspended or sacked since the abortive coup in July 2016.

The pair were detained in May and jailed pending the start of the trial in September. On 12 September, days before the teachers were due to appear in court, Turkey issued detention warrants for the lawyers who were set to defend them.

Human rights groups and the European Union have said President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is using the crackdown to muzzle dissent in Turkey, an assertion the Turkish authority denies.


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