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Plainclothes police officers detain demonstrators during a protest against the detention of two hunger-striking teachers in Ankara, Turkey, June 16, 2017. REUTERS/Umit Bektas


By Ece Toksabay

ANKARA (Reuters) - Two Turkish teachers holding a hunger protest over their dismissal in a government crackdown following last year's failed coup may be close to death, doctors following their case said on Friday.

Literature professor Nuriye Gulmen, 35, and primary school teacher Semih Ozakca, 28, were jailed last month over the protest which a court ruled was conducted on behalf of a terrorist leftist group, the DHKP-C. They have been taking only water, sugar, salt and vitamin B for 100 days and say they will end their action only when they are restored to their positions.

"As of now, they have entered a critical stage with 10 to 20 days to live. We have seen examples of hunger strikers surviving 120-130 days with vitamin B intake, but I assume it will be 110 days under these circumstances," Vedat Bulut, board chairman of the Ankara Chamber of Medical Doctors said.

Bulut says his colleagues had not been allowed to examine Gulmen and Ozakca since their arrest, but remained in contact with prison doctors on their condition.

Doctors at the Ankara prison where they are being held declined to comment and the Justice Ministry said it had no information on the matter.

"Gulmen is confined to bed now, Ozakca is approaching that situation as well. Prison conditions leave them prone to infections and risks of permanent damage," Bulut told Reuters in his office at Ankara's Gazi University.

Almost 150,000 state employees including civil servants, academics and security personnel have been fired since the July coup attempt, which President Tayyip Erdogan has blamed on followers of U.S.-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen.

Turkish officials say the purges are necessary because of the gravity of the coup attempt which killed 240 people. Critics in Turkey and abroad say Erdogan is using the coup as a pretext to muzzle dissent and purge opponents.

"Nuriye and Semih's muscles have been melting, their organs are at a point of no return. Two young people are dying. The parliament should take immediate steps," Garo Paylan, a deputy for the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) told parliament on Friday.

Police cleared protesters gathered in central Ankara around a human rights statue that has been cordoned off by police.

(Editing by Ralph Boulton)

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