Petition calls on Turkey to release hunger-strike teachers


Turkish artists and intellectuals petitioned the government on Tuesday to release two teachers who have been on a hunger strike for 111 days.

The two teachers went on hunger strike in Ankara in March to protest the loss of their jobs after Turkey sacked a raft of public sector workers following a failed coup in July last year.

Nuriye Gulmen is a university lecturer, while Semih Ozakca is a primary school teacher. They were formally arrested in May on suspicion of being members "of an armed terrorist organisation."

The two are now in jail, reportedly in critical condition and perhaps even close to death.

"Nuriye and Semih must not die. We want the state to take the necessary steps so that they can return to their schools and continue their lives. This is what justice and democracy requires," the petition signed by 111 well-known figures read according to daily Hurriyet.

The two are among more than 55,000 academics and teachers suspended under a state of emergency introduced after the abortive coup.

Separately, Turkish opposition parties and some members of the European Parliament had earlier called for the release of the two.

The government did not release any official response to these calls.

"We don't send our children to school so they train them as terrorists," Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said in May in reference to the hunger strike.    (dpa)

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