TURKEY: Education trade unionists on trial

Public sector trade unionists are facing heavy prison terms in Turkey, including 27 teachers and members of the teachers' trade union Egitim Sen, and the Confederation of Public Employees' Trade Unions, KESK.

All are Kurdish or have links with the Kurdish community and have been charged with belonging to a Kurdish organisation banned in Turkey.

The unionists were arrested on 28 May last year. Education International (EI) supports the defendants' case that they are being persecuted because of their "commitment to secular, scientific and public education and the right of Turkish/Kurdish pupils to mother-tongue teaching".

If found guilty, each defendant could be sentenced to up to 10 years' imprisonment. EI was part of an international trade union delegation present at the hearing last month and noted the trial had not met international or national legal requirements.

A statement of solidarity by Education International was released in support of its Turkish colleagues. The international union called on the Turkish authorities to drop all charges against the defendants and to respect the rights of teachers and their trade unions. The delegation will attend the next hearing on 22 October.

Egitim Sen is the largest education workers' union in Turkey with more than 200,000 members. An attempt was made to shut down the union in 2004 by the Attorney General of Ankara after it was accused of having written into its constitution the right of mother tongue education and the right of minorities to their cultural heritage.