11-year-old autistic boy succumbs to heart disease without saying goodbye to his jailed father

Ömer Faruk Turan, 11, died of heart failure on Tuesday without being able to say goodbye to his father, who has been in prison for the past four-and-a-half years on terrorism charges over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

According to the Bold Medya news website, Ömer Faruk has been receiving treatment in a İzmir hospital since August. His father was denied a visit despite the efforts of human rights defender and Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu.

In a tweet in August, Gergerlioğlu had said doctors think even a heart transplant wouldn’t be enough to save the life of Ömer Faruk and that all hope was lost. “I have talked to two different deputy chief public prosecutors, but neither gave permission [for the father to visit his son],” Gergerlioğlu had said.

Murat Turan was sentenced to eight years, nine months due to his alleged affiliation with the faith-based Gülen movement and is currently in a prison in Manisa province.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, which was inspired by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-prime minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. He intensified the crackdown on the movement following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.

Ömer Faruk had to undergo bypass surgery twice when he was a toddler. He had a mild form of autism and was able to go to a regular school. In August, he suddenly felt ill. He was diagnosed with congestive heart failure.

A total of 319,587 people were detained and 99,962 arrested in operations against supporters of the Gülen movement since the coup attempt, Turkey’s Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said in November.

Turkey’s post-coup purge has taken a huge toll on human life, making no exceptions for children. Several children were diagnosed with cancer after their fathers were arrested. Some of these children were unable to cling to life and succumbed to their illnesses. According to the doctors, their fragile bodies were not able to process the sorrow and affliction caused by the persecution of their fathers.

The hands of imprisoned fathers are tied. They cannot be with their children and wives in their time of greatest need. Yet, the mothers’ situation is grimmer given that they have to take care of their sick children and provide for the family at the same time.

According to a regulation on the execution of sentences, the sentences of prisoners whose first-degree relatives are seriously ill may be postponed for one year. But the authorities refuse to apply this regulation when it comes to those tried or convicted on Gülen movement links.

The fact that international courts and organizations do not agree with the Turkish government on its definition of terrorism and its accusations against members of the movement makes no difference. The government continues to disregard the findings and rulings of these bodies.

In fact the European Court of Human Rights and some UN bodies found on a number of occasions the arrest of Gülen movement followers to be unlawful and arbitrary. In a recent ruling, a UN working group even declared that those with alleged links to the Gülen movement are being targeted on the basis of their political or other opinions, constituting a prohibited discriminatory ground.

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