Three suspects accused of attempting to rape 6 female teachers in İzmir have told a court they “wanted to force” the teachers to leave the town because they thought that the victims had links to the Gulen movement, which the government accuses of masterminding the July 15 coup attempt.

The suspects are being tried at an İzmir criminal court and face up to 20 years jail time on charges of “causing damage to property” and “sexual harassment.”

According to CNN Turk news portal, the three man identified with initials Y.I., M.A., M.B., came to the house where the teachers — S.C. (39), İ.P. (26), B.D. (26), E.Ş. (40), F.Ö. (66) and B.Ö. (26) – were staying in and started kicking the door and threatened the women to let them in. The suspects reportedly fled after H.Y., a villager, approached the house upon hearing calls for help from the victims.

Even though the incident took place weeks before the coup attempt the suspects said in their defense that they thought that the teachers were Gulenists and thereby wanted to dismiss them from the town.

“We were drunk and we do not remember much. We did not engage in any kind of verbal harassment. Maybe we did. We were drunk so we do not remember. We just threw stones to drive them out of town. Because we thought they were Gulenists”, the suspects said.