29 including a mother with Parkinson’s arrested over Gülen links

Aysu Bayram

Turkish authorities arrested 29 individuals, including a mother with Parkinson’s disease, in İstanbul on Friday over alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement, the Kronos news website reported.

The arrests followed police raids conducted on Tuesday, resulting in the detention of 50 people, including 14 teenagers.

Among the detainees were Aysu Bayram, a 53-year-old homemaker who suffers from Parkinson’s and underwent a liver transplant two years ago, and her 19-year-old daughter, a first-year law student at a university in Istanbul.

Zeynep Şevval Tekin, 24, a tutor who works with students through social media, was also arrested along with some of the students she supports.

Last week, the İstanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office issued detention warrants on allegations of “disseminating terrorist propaganda.” The suspects were accused of staying in student apartments affiliated with the Gülen movement and exchanging text messages as part of an alleged Gülen-linked student network.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, inspired by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, since the corruption investigations of Dec. 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 failed coup in July 2016.

Opposition deputy and leading human rights advocate Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu has claimed that the police questioned the minors who were detained on Tuesday in the absence of their attorneys and manipulated their statements.

“Their statements were taken without the presence of a lawyer,” Gergerlioğlu said during a parliamentary meeting on Thursday. “The police falsified their statements by inserting things that they had not said.”

Gergerlioğlu added that the minors were mistreated and held in custody for 15 hours, asking Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya to provide an explanation.

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