2-month-old baby accompanies mother serving sentence for conviction of Gülen links

Elif Karlıdağ, a mother of two who was arrested to serve a sentence for conviction of links to the Gülen movement, is being accompanied by her 2-month-old daughter in prison, the Bold Medya news website reported.

Karlıdağ’s baby, Beril, will continue to live with her mother in a prison cell, although the Law on the Execution of Sentences and Security Measures stipulates that the “execution of the prison sentence is delayed for women who are pregnant or have given birth within the last 18 months.”

Despite the law, as of October 2021 there were a total of 345 children under the age of 6 accompanying their mothers in Turkish prisons. The children were kept in unsuitable conditions as they were not well fed and did not receive sufficient medical care.

Karlıdağ also has a 5-year-old son who is in the care of his father. Her arrest came after a previous six year, three month prison sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court of Appeals.

Karlıdağ was accused of having an account at the now-closed Bank Asya, one of Turkey’s largest commercial banks at the time, and for using the ByLock encrypted messaging app. The app was widely available in Apple’s App Store and Google Play, but the government claims it was exclusively used by followers of the movement and considers it evidence of terrorist activity.

Her husband, Gürkan Karlıdağ, a former police officer who was summarily fired by an executive decree, was handed down a six year, 10 month prison sentence on similar charges. His case is currently pending a decision by the appeals court.

“I am extremely concerned for the well-being of my children,” said Gürkan Karlıdağ. “What will happen to my son if I am also arrested?”

Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government launched a war against the Gülen movement, a worldwide civic initiative inspired by the ideas of Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, after the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013 that implicated then-prime minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s family members and inner circle.

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

The Turkish government accepted such daily activities as having an account at or depositing money in a Gülen movement-affiliated bank, working at any institution linked to the movement or subscribing to certain newspapers and magazines as benchmarks for identifying and arresting tens of thousands alleged members of the movement on charges of membership in a terrorist organization.

According to a statement by Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, as of November 15, 2021 a total of 319,587 people had been detained and 99,962 arrested in operations against supporters of the Gülen movement since the coup attempt.

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