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Turkish prominent academic on hunger strike appeals jail term

A prominent female Turkish academic, who is on lengthy hunger strike in protest to her dismissal, has appealed a jail term handed to her over alleged links to a banned leftist group.

Nuriye Gulmen, who weighs only 34 kilograms, barely half her weight when she started the strike, said Wednesday she had appealed a six-year jail sentence given to her last week for being a member of the outlawed militant leftist DHKP-C group.

The 35-year-old is among more than 150,000 who have been discharged from their jobs in universities, the civil service, judiciary and military over alleged links to a failed coup on July 15, 2016.

Authorities arrested the former literature professor in May after she went on hunger strike and staged protests against the purges.

An Ankara court said Gulmen was staging hunger strike on the orders of DHKP-C, something she denies altogether.

Gulmen said she would appeal her conviction of being a member of the militant group while maintaining her hunger strike.

“We will take (the appeal) all the way up, and then to the European Court of Human Rights. There is no evidence linking me to the DHKP-C, apart from some secret witnesses’ testimony,” she said while on the 273rd day of a diet of sugar and salt solutions, water and herbal tea.

Professor Nuriye Gulmen (L) greets her supporters after she was released from prison in Ankara, Turkey, on December 2, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

She accused the government of President Tayyip Erdogan of being tough on those opposing the post-coup purges, saying anyone protesting the crackdown would face even tougher actions.

“The government wants absolute surrender. You can commit suicide for all they care, but they don’t want you to raise your voice,” said the emaciated-looking woman who lives on a patient bed by hand sanitizers and surgical masks to avoid contracting an infection.

Some 50,000 people are now behind bars in Turkey over allegations of links to Fethullah Gulen, a cleric based in the United States whom Turkey accuses of having masterminded the coup attempt.

Gulen has denied any involvement in the abortive coup while endorsing rights groups’ claims that the crackdown may be a deliberate move by Erdogan to stifle dissent in Turkey.

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