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Turkey detains lawyers of hunger-striking teachers ahead of trial

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Turkey detains lawyers of hunger-striking teachers ahead of trial

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ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey issued detention warrants for the lawyers of two hunger-striking teachers on Tuesday, days before they are due to appear in court, lawyers representing the academics said. Nuriye Gulmen, a literature professor, and Semih Ozakca, a primary school teacher, have been on hunger strike for more than six months after they lost their jobs in a crackdown following a failed coup against President Tayyip Erdogan. Doctors say they have been surviving on liquids and supplements, but have described their condition as dangerously weak for several months. Authorities detained them in May saying they had links to the militant leftist DHKP-C group, deemed a terrorist organisation by Turkey. The warrants were issued for 18 lawyers, all members of two law offices defending the teachers. “The detention of our colleagues today is an attempt in vain to leave Gulmen and Ozakca defenceless,” a lawyer representing the pair told Reuters, adding that more than 2,000 lawyers had applied to defend them due to the case’s symbolic importance. Police raided lawyers’ offices in Istanbul and Ankara and detained 10 lawyers, while the search for eight others continued. On Thursday, Gulmen and Ozakca will appear in court for the first time since their arrest. So far, 150,000 state employees including civil servants, academics and security personnel have been fired since last year’s coup attempt, which Erdogan blamed on followers of U.S.-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen. Gulen denies any involvement. Critics accuse the government of using the coup as a pretext to purge dissident voices from public institutions. Last month, the European Court of Human Rights rejected a request by the two teachers to order Ankara to release them on health grounds.

(Reporting by Dirimcan Barut; Writing by Ece Toksabay; Editing by Janet Lawrence)
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