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Turkey frees academic on hunger strike

December 2, 2017

Turkish teacher Nuriye Gulmen has been freed pending appeal after being convicted of belonging to a banned far-left group. She has gone without food for months to protest her dismissal after last year's failed coup.

Nuriye Gulmen lying in bed waving to supporters
Image: Getty Images/AFP/A. Altan

A Turkish court on Friday handed down a sentence of six years and three months to Nuriye Gulmen (top photo), a university professor who went on hunger strike after losing her job in a purge following last year's failed coup. the court then ordered her release pending an appeal.

Gulmen, 35, was found guilty of being a member of the banned leftist DHKP-C group, which Turkey, the EU and the US consider to be a terrorist organization.

She was arrested in May along with Semih Ozakca, a primary school teacher who had joined her in a hunger strike launched in March. The two have been protesting at the loss of their jobs in a crackdown by Ankara on alleged coup participants that has led to more than 140,000 public sector workers being sacked or suspended.

Ozakca, 28, was released last month pending a trial and was acquitted of similar charges on Friday. A third defendant, Acun Karadag, was also acquitted on a charge of participating in illegal rallies.

Read more:  In Turkey, hope for 'justice is fading away just like my muscles'


Man pinned to ground by police
Several protesters were detained during the trialImage: Imago/Depo Photos

Health problems

Authorities transferred Gulmen into intensive care in September due to her worsening health. She and Ozakca have been living on water, herbal tea, sugar and salt solutions and vitamin B1 for more than 260 days.

The two teachers said their hunger strike has been carried out in support of all those state employees, including academics, civil servants, judges and soldiers, affected by the crackdown after the abortive coup in July 2016.

Read more: Turkey seeks arrest of 360 more military personnel in post-coup crackdown

Ankara has blamed the coup on exiled Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, arresting more than 50,000 people over alleged links to his movement. Gulen, who is residing in the USA, strongly denies the charges.

Human rights groups have accused President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of instigating the crackdown to stifle dissent in Turkey, but he has always rejected the claims.

tj/sms (dpa, Reuters, AFP)