Ailing man sent to prison to serve sentence on conviction of Gülen links

Ahmet Öztürk

An ailing elderly man was arrested and sent to prison on Monday to serve a six-year, three-month sentence on conviction of links to the Gülen movement, the Kronos news website reported.

Retired banker Ahmet Öztürk, 76, was sent to Aydın E-Type prison. He was accused of associating with people with links to the Gülen movement, depositing money to the now-closed Bank Asya and donating money to organizations affiliated with the movement.

The Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, is accused by the government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of masterminding a failed coup and is labeled as a “terrorist organization,” although the movement denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

A video recording of police escorting Öztürk to prison has been circulating on social media. It is obvious from the recordings that the elderly man can barely stand and needs the help of two people to walk.

The recordings also show police officers warning Öztürk’s relatives to stop recording.

According to his family, Öztürk recently recovered from prostate cancer and underwent a hernia operation. He can barely take care of his own needs and requires help with daily tasks like bathing.

Öztürk’s family urged the authorities to convert his prison sentence to house arrest. In an appeal to the prison administration, they emphasized that Öztürk required regular medical attention and that prison time could severely affect his health.

According to the most recent report by Turkey’s Human Rights Association (İHD), there are at least 1,517 sick inmates in Turkish prisons, 651 of whom are seriously ill. Furthermore, 39 of 76 inmates who died in prison in 2022 were critically ill.

According to the report, sick inmates face a number of difficulties such as overcrowded wards, heating problems, delayed admission to the infirmary, an insufficient number of doctors, delayed referrals to the hospital and a lack of nutritious food, clean water and adequate exercise. The report noted that many ill prisoners who are unable to take care of themselves are put in one-person cells.

While relevant regulations favor ill prisoners, political inmates are excluded and have to remain in prison despite the severity of their illness.

According to the law, the sentence of a prisoner who, due to a serious illness or disability, is unable to manage life on their own under prison conditions and who is not considered a danger to society may be suspended until they recover.

However, the decision to suspend sentences is not implemented for many political prisoners.

Turkish authorities have denied political prisoners, even those with critical illnesses, release from prison so they can at least seek proper treatment. Human rights activists and opposition politicians have frequently criticized authorities for not releasing critically ill prisoners.

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