ECHR rejects bid to release Turkey's Ozakca and Gulmen

European Court of Human Rights says health condition of two educators sacked in post-coup purge is not life-threatening.

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    Gulmen, left, and Ozakca pictured before they were arrested in May [EPA]
    Gulmen, left, and Ozakca pictured before they were arrested in May [EPA]

    Europe's top human rights court has dismissed a request for release by two detained Turkish educators on hunger strike, saying the condition of their health is not life-threatening.

    Teacher Semih Ozakca, 28, and 35-year-old academic Nuriye Gulmen began their strike on March 10 after losing their jobs, along with tens of thousands of state employees, amid a purge following last year's failed coup.

    The pair, currently being held at Sincan Hospital in the capital Ankara under police watch, were arrested for allegedly being members of the outlawed far-left group DHKP-C.

    Medical reports dated July 28 by Ankara's Numune Hospital said both of them were in life-threatening health conditions and were unable to survive unaided.

    The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) rejected on Wednesday the pair's requests for freedom, saying that there was not an imminent risk to their lives.

    READ MORE: Turkey arrests head of Amnesty over 'Gulen links'

    "[The court] examined the applicants' requests in the light of the medical reports and developments … and it found that the applicants' detention at the Sincan Hospital did not pose a real and imminent risk of irreparable harm to the life or limb of the applicants," a court statement said.

    "It therefore rejected the applicants' request that the court order the government to release them.

    "The court informed the parties that it expected the government to take all necessary measures to ensure that the applicants' rights … are respected."

    In the light of the report by Numune Hospital, the court requested "the government to ensure that adequate arrangements be put in place to assist the applicants in their day-to-day needs."

    'Shallow decision'

    Selcuk Kozagacli, a lawyer representing the applicants, told Al Jazeera that the ECHR's decision was "unprecedentedly shallow" and contradicted the court's principles.

    "In the decision, the court almost fully repeats the arguments of the government, without considering our arguments and the documents we provided," he said.

    "The file proves, in a definitive manner, that [Ozakca and Gulmen] are at imminent risk of losing their lives. Nevertheless, the decision taken by the duty judge claims that they [are not].

    "If the ECHR keeps making these kinds of decisions, it will contribute to unlawful practices going in Turkey under the state of emergency. And it will have to bear this responsibility."

    READ MORE: Turkey's Erdogan links detained rights activists to failed coup

    The government, which declared a state of emergency following the coup attempt, say the purges and detentions are legitimate, and are aimed at removing Gulen supporters from state institutions.

    The Turkish government blames US-based religious leader and businessman Fethullah Gulen and his followers for the coup attempt of July 15, 2016, while he denies any involvement.

    Local and international rights groups, as well as many of Turkey's European allies, say the measures are arbitrary, claiming that the government is using the coup attempt as a pretext to silence opposition.

    The Turkish Constitutional Court dismissed in June the appeals by Ozakca and Gulmen for their release over their health conditions.

    Follow Umut Uras on Twitter: @Um_Uras

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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