Turkish police detains dozens during protests over arrest of Gülmen and Özakça

Turkish police has detained tens of people during the protests staged in support of jailed Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça, who are on hunger strike for 76 days, in İstanbul. It was reported that 11 protestors in Kadıköy, 12 people in Beşiktaş districts of the city have been detained and seven-day detention period has been issued by prosecutors for those detained in Kadıköy.

People’s Law Bureau announced that the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) Kadıköy branch co-chair and Labor Party (EMEP) Kadıköy chair were among the detainees.

According to the reports in Turkish media, a group of 200 people gathered in Beşiktaş. Not allowing the group to read out a press statement at the Barbaros Boulevard, the police took 12 people into custody.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has slammed the arrest of two educators who have been on hunger strike for more than two months, calling on the government to “not cause an unforgettable disgrace to humanity.”

“We already know that you have destroyed justice. But it must be very hard, even for you, to be so remorseless as to arrest Gülmen and Özakça. Rather than being arrested, they should be reinstated to their posts,” Kılıçdaroğlu said in a Twitter post on Wednesday.

“Do not cause an unforgettable disgrace to humanity. Instead of reinstating to their posts these two young people who have been on hunger strike for many days, [the government] has displayed its remorselessness by having them arrested,” he added.

Academic Nuriye Gülmen and primary school teacher Semih Özakça were arrested on terror charges late on Tuesday. An immediate indictment prepared by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office seeks a jail sentence of 20 years for Semih Özakça and Nuriye Gülmen, two educators who went on a hunger strike after they were fired by government decrees in the aftermath of a July 15, 2016 coup attempt.

According to Diken news portal, the two educators are accused of “attempting to destroy the unity of the state and nation” and “membership in an armed terrorist organization.” The educators were detained after police searches of their homes in the early hours of Monday. They were arrested by an Ankara court on Tuesday on the 76th day of their hunger strike.

Several CHP lawmakers has also aimed at staging a sit-in protest in front of the Human Rights Monument in Ankara’s Yüksel Street on Wednesday after protestors in the area were warned by police to disperse. CHP deputies were not allowed to enter the area. Thereupon, CHP MPs Ali Haydar Hakverdi, Sezgin Tanrıkulu, Eren Erdem, Ali Şeker, Veli Ağbaba, Murat Emir, Hilmi Yarıyıcı started to walk up and down in front of the police blockade.

The CHP deputies reportedly stated that Turkey has been turned into a semi-open prison under the rule the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government. Later, the lawmakers Ali Haydar Hakverdi, Sezgin Tanrıkulu and Ali Şeker linked arms and walked back and forth on the street in protest.

On the other hands, 62 members of the European Parliament have also sent a letter to Turkey’s Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ on Wednesday to express their concerns over the arrest of Gülmen and Özakça, calling on the Turkish government for their immediate release.

“We, the undersigned members of the European Parliament, wish to express our deepest concern about the ongoing state of emergency and disproportionate effects thereof on democracy and human rights in Turkey,” the letter said.

It also recalled that over 100,000 civil servants, military officers, judges, teachers and academics had been dismissed from their jobs, while tens of thousands have been arrested and prosecuted in the wake of last year’s coup attempt.

The letter noted that Gülmen and Özakça are on the 196th day of their “I want my job back” protest and on the 76th day of their hunger strike.

“We regret to hear that their health is seriously deteriorating and that they have reached a life-threatening stage. Despite this fact, Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça were arbitrarily detained after a midnight police raid at their houses last Monday. We thereby demand their immediate release,” it read.

The European parliamentarians also said they stood in solidarity with the people of Turkey and those who have been arbitrarily detained and dismissed under the state of emergency.  “We urgently call on Turkish authorities to end the state of emergency as soon as possible and to enable all persons dismissed or arrested following the coup attempt of July 15 to have immediate access to an independent and effective appeals mechanism,” the letter said.

Expressing its concerns and fears over hunger striker Gülmen and Özakça, Amnesty International has also launched an “Urgent Action” campaign on Wednesday. Amnesty stated that “There are fears for their wellbeing including that they may be forced to end their hunger strike against their will… Amnesty International is concerned that Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça may be force fed. Article 82 of the law on the execution of judgments No. 5275 allows for prison authorities to feed inmates on hunger strike without their consent, on the decision of the prison doctor. Such measures may also amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Amnesty has called people to write immediately in Turkish or their own language “to urge the Turkish authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça as they appear to be detained solely in connection to their peaceful protest; to call on them to ensure that they are protected from torture and other ill-treatment and that they have access to independent medical professionals to provide health care in compliance with medical ethics, including the principles of confidentiality, autonomy and informed consent; to remind them that they are engaging in a peaceful form of protest and the Turkish authorities have an obligation to respect their right to freedom of expression, including their right to protest.”

May 24, 2017

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